Seasonal Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
What are Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal Allergies are allergic reactions which strike in a particular season. They are also known by the name of hay fever and allergic rhinitis. The allergic reaction occurs as the immune system of the body is triggered off as it identifies harmless allergens as potentially harmful substances and produces antibodies to fight against it. During this process, chemicals called histamines are produced which cause typical symptoms of an allergic reaction like runny nose, water and itchy eyes, and congestion. Seasonal Allergies like hay fever and allergic rhinitis vary from season to season and almost everyone at one point tends to get it despite all precautions.
The most common allergen for Seasonal Allergies is pollen which can come from trees, plants, and weeds. These pollens get airborne and an individual inhales it thus triggering the immune system mechanism. Seasonal Allergies are not seen in the winter months as much as they are prevalent in the summer and spring seasons but there have been cases of Seasonal Allergies in the winter months also since different plants give out pollens at different times of the year. Indoor allergens like molds and pet dander may also cause Seasonal Allergies.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
As stated, Seasonal Allergies occur when the immune system identifies a potentially harmful substance like pollen as a harmful substance and produces antibodies to fight it off. With repeated exposure to pollens these antibodies during the process of fighting off the pollens release chemicals called histamines which trigger symptoms of runny nose, sneezing, cough, itchy and water eyes, the symptoms classic for an allergic reaction. Seasonal Allergies as the name suggests trigger depending on the season and hence the allergens are different for different seasons. Some of the common triggers for Seasonal Allergies are:
Spring Season Allergies: The most common allergen in the spring season is trees. The pollen from the trees gets airborne and is a cause of Seasonal Allergies. Some of the trees that give out these allergens in the United States are cedar, alder, willow, and poplar.
Summer Season Allergies: The most common allergen for the summer season is grass and weeds. The types of grass which are responsible for Seasonal Allergies in the summer months are rye grass and Timothy-grass. There are also certain forms of weeds which also emit pollens which become airborne and cause allergic reactions in the summer season.
Autumn Season Allergies: Seasonal Allergies during this season is caused by weeds of which ragweed is the most common source for pollens which result in allergies
Winter Season Allergies: It is quite uncommon to have allergies in the winter months as most of the allergens out of the house become dormant but that does not mean that you are totally protected from allergens. There are indoor allergens as well like pet dander and molds which can cause severe allergic reactions but it is easy to prevent indoor allergens from striking than the outdoor allergens.
What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies?
The symptoms of Seasonal Allergies are variable and range from moderate to severe. Some of the common symptoms of Seasonal Allergies are
- Persistent sneezing
- Runny nose
- Nose congestion
- Watery and itchy eyes
- Itchy throat
- Ear congestion
- Postnasal drip.
Rarely, Seasonal Allergies can cause the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent coughing.
In individuals who have a known diagnosis of asthma, then it is that more vital to avoid any type of allergens as an allergic reaction may exacerbate the asthma and may cause an asthma attack.
How are Seasonal Allergies Diagnosed?
Seasonal Allergies are something that can be easily diagnosed as the symptoms caused by them occur only in specific seasons. Additionally, the physician may have a look at the ear, nose, and throat to confirm the diagnosis. In order to specify the exact allergen to which an individual is allergic to a skin prick test can be done in which a puncture is made in the skin on the arm or back and different allergens like molds, pollen and the like are introduced. If an individual is allergic to certain allergen then he or she will develop a raised bump or a hive over the area and thus the diagnosis is confirmed of Seasonal Allergies depending on when the symptoms are at their peak and to what allergen the individual is sensitive to. Other than this, a blood work may also be recommended by the physician to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms.
How are Seasonal Allergies Treated?
Avoidance is the best way to treat Seasonal Allergies but this is something which is not always possible. There are medications to treat the symptoms of Seasonal Allergies. For avoidance, one can try and avoid wooded areas in the summer seasons where the pollen count is bound to be high. Take out all weeds in the yard before the summer season to avoid any accumulation of pollens around the household. Try and wear a face mask to avoid any dust particles or other allergens from entering in the body and thus triggering an allergic reaction. Try and shut windows and doors during the summer and fall season when there is high pollen count in the atmosphere due to weeds, trees, and plants which may enter the body and cause allergic symptoms. Try and stay away from cigarettes or even second hand smoke as it can aggravate Allergy symptoms.
Medication wise, over the counter decongestants and antihistamines like Zyrtec and Benadryl can be used for relief of symptoms. Apart from this, nasal sprays are also available over the counter which help a lot in decongesting the nose and help in relieving the symptoms of Seasonal Allergies. Allergy Shots may be recommended in some people who are refractory to medications and nasal sprays. Nasal Lavage is another way to treat allergic symptoms. In this the individual needs to rinse the nose with warm water mixed with a pinch of salt. This helps a great deal with symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, and itchy and watery eyes which are a common symptom for Seasonal Allergies.