What are seasonal allergies?
It's that time of year again — but when isn't it?
Nasal congestion, watery eyes and a tell-tale scratchy throat are signs that seasonal allergies (such as allergic rhinitis) are upon us.
Seasonal allergies may slow down even the most productive person. It's hard to focus on work and enjoy life to the fullest. And it’s definitely not possible to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors when it feels like your body is transpiring against you.
We get it. We've been there. That's why we're going to break down the causes of allergies and show you a safe, natural way to treat them.
Allergies are caused by an allergen, which is any foreign substance or chemical that triggers your body's immune defense system.
Health problems arise when the pollen reaches your immune system. Within moments, if your body has an allergy sensitivity, it will begin to fight the perceived infection, which causes allergy symptoms.
Common allergy symptoms may include:
The severity of symptoms can vary season to season and person to person.
Seasonal allergies, one of the most common forms of allergies, are usually triggered by outdoor plants — and usually by pollen, specifically ragweed.
During its short life cycle, ragweed pumps out almost a billion pollen seeds per plant. Over the course of a few months, those pollen seeds are blown all over the U.S.
Depending on where you live, you may suffer from severe spring, summer or fall allergies. If you live in an area of the country that stays warm throughout the winter months, you may even suffer from allergies throughout the winter, too.
Allergy seasons are getting longer and longer as climate change shortens each winter, contributing to earlier and earlier spring and summer seasons.
Seasonal allergies happen… well, seasonally! That means with every season, different allergens may cause symptoms. Seasonal allergies differ from environmental allergies because they may only cause symptoms during certain times of the year.
Depending on where you live and what you’re allergic to, you may suffer from different allergies — though most spring, summer and autumn allergies are caused by a few of the same culprits.
If you’re allergic to tree or grass pollen, you may suffer from spring allergies, as these allergens run rampant when trees and flowering plants release pollen during the spring.
The most common spring allergies include grass and tree pollen allergies but may also include other allergies, depending on where you live.
It may be impossible to avoid pollen in the spring, as this allergen is airborne. Pollen is extremely sticky and affixes to both smooth and soft surfaces, including cars, clothes and hair. On dry, windy days, pollen gets blown around and can even fly into your eyes, nose and mouth.
Ragweed pollen has 17 different strains and typically matures around August.
Ragweed produces its most intense allergic effects during the morning in the summer and fall months. Some trees such as oak and birch can also produce pollen. Ragweed pollen, like most common pollen, is unavoidable. The wind carries the seeds hundreds of miles and is particularly dense in heavily wooded or overgrown areas.
During the fall, most plants are releasing their leaves in preparation for the winter. Yet, that doesn’t mean you won’t experience allergy symptoms! Some of the most common allergies that are triggered in the fall include ragweed, mold and fungus allergies.
Ragweeds are plants that bloom throughout North America, including the U.S. and Mexico.
These weeds not only grow in rural areas, but they may also grow in urban areas, too. Ragweeds are often found in the woods, gardens and in sidewalk cracks.
Ragweed season is long and may last for more than two months; peak ragweed season is in September, but this plant may continue to spread pollen until the end of the month or even into October.
Plants may only grow to be a few inches, or as tall as 13 feet!
Mold allergies can strike pretty much any time of year, though they’re often most common in the fall when wet leaves cover the ground.
Technically, mold can grow wherever there is damp organic material lying around. Mold tends to grow best in high-moisture areas, including poorly insulated structures, upholstery and unfinished wood.
The forest can be a breeding ground for mold, so hiking on a cool autumn afternoon the day after heavy rain may trigger mold allergies.
Mold allergies are considered both seasonal and environmental allergies, as they can happen seasonally in the autumn or anytime conditions are ripe for mold growth.
Fungus allergy season starts in the summer but may last through the autumn.
Fungal allergens are airborne, meaning (like pollen) they can easily enter your eyes, nose and mouth. According to one 2013 study, the most common fungal allergens include Alternaria, Cladosporium, Aspergillus, Penicillium and Fusarium.
Dry and windy days preceded by rainy days create the perfect conditions for fungal growth. The optimal temperature range for fungal growth is between 41F and 90F.
Also, some foods may activate your allergies, making your allergies worse.
This happens when your body confuses a food substance for the allergic compound. For example, ragweed allergies may be triggered by bananas and other fruits.
This condition is called oral allergy syndrome (OAS). Symptoms range from mild to severe. Though most people suffering from OAS may not experience anaphylaxis, symptoms can be uncomfortable to downright painful.
There is no cure for this condition, but people with OAS may be able to ease or prevent symptoms by taking oral antihistamines or supplements.
Changing your diet can lessen allergic reactions, but can't get rid of them entirely.
OAS patients may find some relief through allergy immunotherapy, which may help retrain the immune system to stop releasing histamines when coming into contact with allergic compounds.
Cooking fruits, vegetables and nuts with such compounds may also help break down the proteins and prevent symptoms.
Roughly 50 million people suffer from allergies every year. That's 50 million runny, sniffling noses.
8% of people develop pollen allergies and millions of people seek treatment for pet, dust, pollen and other allergies every year. Ragweed is the most common pollen allergy, but other plants such as sage can also play a factor. Seasonal allergies are tricky to diagnose, especially when complicated by other illnesses (such as immunocompromisation, respiratory infections and unrelated food allergies).
The impact of seasonal allergies is more than people realize.
Not only do they play a major role in the quality of life, but they also have a profound economic impact. The total costs of allergy treatments, missed work due to allergies and other factors exceed $1 billion per year.
Clogged sinuses can disrupt your sleep quality and result in fatigue, headaches and impaired cognitive function.
All of these symptoms make it hard for most of us to go out and do the things we love, like spending time with family or pursuing passions. If you've lived with allergies all your life, then you know the emotional costs attributed to those pesky little allergic reactions.
The good news is you have options to help reduce the severity of your allergies and find relief from allergies.
Unfortunately, there's no real cure for pollen allergies or other allergies such as pet or dust allergies. Luckily, seasonal allergies can be treated to reduce the intensity.
Keep in mind that allergies are persistent. There's no permanent option to rid yourself of symptoms, but there are many ways to reduce the symptoms. Here are some natural ways to ease your seasonal allergies.
Consider avoiding the great outdoors on particularly windy days.
Pollen travels in the air and (as mentioned above), it can travel pretty far. This powdery substance is designed perfectly to land in environments most conducive to sprouting new flowers; however, pollen can just as easily end up blowing into your mouth, nose and eyes.
Moisture aids in lowering airborne pollen counts (by forcing pollen to the ground), so going outside just after a spring shower may help your chances of breathing clearly.
Before going outside during allergy season, check local pollen counts. Most weather apps and websites post pollen counts and air quality reports each day. When pollen and pollution levels are high, stay indoors if possible.
It's always a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional who understands your medical history, needs and concerns.
Speaking with a specialist may also offer key insights into the cause of your particular allergies and specific ways to avoid them.
You may also want to get tested for allergies so you can know exactly which allergens to avoid. Allergies also share symptoms with other conditions and getting tested for allergies may also help rule out some medical issues.
Make an appointment with your doctor or allergist to get a skin scratch test in person. If you have a history of anaphylaxis, your doctor may suggest getting a blood test at a lab instead.
Or, order an at-home allergy testing kit, such as Curex’s finger prick test. The test kit will be mailed to your address. Simply follow the instructions, mail your sample to the lab and get your results.
Allergy medications, such as antihistamines (e.g. Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin, etc.), steroid nasal sprays (e.g., Flonase, etc.) and antihistamine eye drops can provide short-term symptom relief by treating the body’s response to the allergic reaction — the histamine that causes an allergic response.
Antihistamines are convenient and many cases don’t require a prescription. The effectiveness of such medications and side effects vary from patient to patient.
Allergy Immunotherapy is a natural, safe way to prevent clogged sinus and congestion. Take your life back and imagine a possible future without allergies.
Allergy immunotherapy works by building your body's resistance to your specific allergy. Over time, this changes your body's reaction to the allergen and reduces its effects.
Two types of allergy immunotherapy are currently available, including subcutaneous immunotherapy (often called allergy shots) and sublingual immunotherapy, administered orally, underneath the tongue.
Subcutaneous immunotherapy has been administered by doctors for decades in the U.S. This type of immunotherapy introduces trace amounts of allergens into the bloodstream to allow the immune system to stop recognizing allergens as a threat.
Make an appointment with a local doctor or allergist for these types of treatments. You’ll need to see a doctor in person for subcutaneous immunotherapy treatments.
One downside to allergy shots is that people with a history of anaphylaxis may not be candidates for this type of treatment, as subcutaneous immunotherapy may have a risk of anaphylaxis.
Another type of immunotherapy is sublingual immunotherapy. Like with allergy shots, trace amounts of allergens are introduced to the body — only instead of being administered by injection sublingual immunotherapy administers them orally.
You may not need to make an in-person appointment with a medical professional for sublingual immunotherapy as this type of immunotherapy has shown to carry a lower risk of anaphylaxis.
Before starting treatment for allergy immunotherapy, you may need to get tested for allergies so your clinician knows which allergies to treat.
Immunotherapy isn't an overnight treatment method.
It takes time, patience and a healthcare professional to achieve a high rate of success, though most patients find they are able to lower their doses of allergy medications and some patients may be able to stop taking allergy medication altogether.
Make an appointment with a Curex clinician to find out if sublingual immunotherapy is a good fit for you. If so, you may be able to start your treatment plan in as little as one week.