Does the thought of stopping to smell the flowers make your nose itch?
If you’re one of the 35 million-plus Americans with seasonal allergies, it might.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis—or hay fever—is the body’s immune system gone a bit awry. It’s an overreaction to an allergen, which is just a term for a substance you could be allergic to. And most people who have allergies are allergic to things that can come and go with the seasons.
Why seasons bring on sneezing
Your immune system is like a bodyguard. It defends your body against foreign invaders.
But sometimes it goes on the defensive against things that are harmless, and that’s the essence of an allergic reaction: You come into contact with a substance, and your immune system overreacts. It starts releasing chemicals, such as histamines, to battle the invader. And those chemicals lead to an allergic reaction, with symptoms such as:
- A stuffed-up or drippy nose
- Itchy eyes, throat or ears
Two of the most common allergens are pollen and mold spores.
Plants send pollen into the air with the hope of fertilizing other plants. Each plant has a period of pollination around the same time every year, generally starting in early spring and lasting through late fall.
It’s much the same with mold, which begins releasing fertilizing spores as weather warms from spring through summer and fall.
Other factors that can affect allergies include where you live and the weather on any given day.
What you can do
You can lessen symptoms by adjusting your activities. For example, spend less time outdoors when pollen and mold counts are high. Check the local news reports or visit the National Allergy Bureau at http://pollen.aaaai.org/nab.
- Close windows at night to keep allergens out.
- Avoid freshly mowed grass.
- Don’t rake leaves. It stirs up pollen and molds.
- Don’t hang laundry outside, where allergens can glom onto it.
- After yard work, change your clothes and take a shower.
A good first step, however, is to see your doctor. He or she can help figure out your specific allergens—and how to avoid them. Then you can work together on a treatment plan. That may include medications, such as antihistamines, and possibly allergy shots to calm your immune system’s response.
Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
Looking for help to tackle your seasonal allergies? MultiCare’s Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialists can help diagnosis your allergies and plan a treatment that help. visit multicare.org/ear-nose-throat-2 for more information and a list of our ENT office locations.