3 Ways to Prepare for Spring Allergies

For some of us, the return of spring means more than enjoying the beauty of blooming flowers and warmer weather. For many, it also signals the start of seasonal allergies, which can bring a world of discomfort. As temperatures climb above 50 degrees, flowers begin to bud, trees begin to bloom, and the pollen counts rise. This can result in a runny nose, itchy eyes, and endless sneezing. Fortunately, those who suffer from seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever) don’t have to limit themselves to indoor spaces or settle for artificial flowers. There are effective ways to combat the allergy season before it can ruin your springtime.

What are seasonal allergies?

During the changing seasons, often the spring and fall for those living in the United States, plants like ragweed, grass, and certain trees begin a rapid stage of regrowth, releasing pollen into the air that causes those suffering from seasonal allergies to have increased allergy symptoms. While most people with seasonal allergies experience symptoms during the height of spring and fall, it’s not uncommon for people to notice seasonal allergy symptoms during summer or winter as well.

How do I know if I have seasonal allergies?

If you have seasonal allergies, chances are that you’re probably already aware of your allergy symptoms, but not necessarily the cause of those symptoms. Common symptoms of seasonal allergies include:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Tickly throat
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately 81 million Americans were diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) in 2021 alone. A report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics revealed that about one-quarter of adults have a seasonal allergy. If you suspect that you have seasonal allergies, don’t despair. There are various remedies at home and in the office for those who are suffering.

Diagnosis of seasonal allergies is a relatively simple process. If you suspect you may have seasonal allergies, your doctor may check your ears, nose, and throat before making a diagnosis of hay fever. Having allergic symptoms at certain times of the year is a pretty good indication of seasonal allergies, however, confirmation with a physician to rule out other potential causes can be helpful. The gold standard to identify allergic triggers is allergy skin testing.  This can be performed by a board-certified allergist.

How can I combat my seasonal allergies?

While treatment for seasonal allergies can differ depending on the severity of your symptoms and what allergens may trigger your symptoms, management of seasonal allergens typically involves a combination of avoidance, medication, and allergen-immunotherapy.

  • Avoidance

One of the easiest ways to avoid seasonal allergy symptoms is to avoid the allergen itself. Use an air conditioning unit equipped with a HEPA filter. Keep an eye on local news networks for pollen counts and try to stay inside when the forecast predicts high pollen levels in the air. Wear a mask while performing outside activities that put you in close proximity to your allergens such as gardening or mowing the lawn.  Rinse off with a shower in the evening after spending time outdoors.  Keep your indoor space pollen free by closing screen doors and windows during high-pollen times.

  • Medication

We can’t always completely avoid our allergens, which is where medication can come into play. Over-the-counter antihistamines, eye drops, and nasal sprays can help ease your allergy symptoms. It’s best to start with non-sedating allergy medication that lasts for 24 hours. While many forms of allergy medication can be purchased over the counter, it’s a good idea to speak to a trained medical provider about which medicine or combination of medication might work best for you. In some cases, your provider may prescribe specific medication for symptoms that are more severe.

  • Immunotherapy

Rather than treating the symptoms of allergies, allergy shots are a way to treat the root cause of your allergies. Whether you prefer not to take medication, experience side effects from medication, or do not feel full relief, your doctor may recommend allergy shots. This type of gradual treatment plan helps desensitize your body to any number of allergens by gradually increasing your exposure to the allergens over time. Immunotherapy allows you to tolerate pollen and other potential allergens, reducing your symptoms and overall need for medication. 

Who can help me with my allergy symptoms?

Seasonal allergy symptoms can certainly make life uncomfortable, but the good news is that there are plenty of interventions that can help you treat those symptoms. If you’re struggling with the management of seasonal allergies, consider speaking to a board-certified TPMG allergist about your concerns.

Sabrina Brown

About Christina F. Ortiz, MD, MPH

Dr. Christina Ortiz is an allergy specialist at TPMG Coastal Allergy in Chesapeake, VA. She is trained to treat both adults and children, including infants. As an allergy and asthma specialist, Dr. Ortiz treats a variety of allergic conditions, including seasonal and indoor allergies, asthma, eczema, medication and food allergies, and sinusitis. She provides up-to-date allergy testing to identify triggers of allergic symptoms or asthma. She also offers a variety of treatment options, including allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots), which is an individualized treatment option that offers long-term relief and asthma prevention.

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