Seasonal allergies are a common struggle. Over 5% of Americans suffer from allergies of all types, and symptoms can vary from mild to moderate to severe. Common allergy symptoms include sneezing, coughing, and itchy, runny eyes and nose. Luckily, there are plenty of treatments available for seasonal allergies, including prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as immunotherapy.
Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
Allergy symptoms often vary from patient to patient and can also vary in severity. Some people may have debilitating symptoms, while others experience light-to-moderate symptoms.
Shortness of breath
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may experience one or a few (or even all) of the above symptoms. These symptoms may be worse in the spring or autumn but usually aren’t as severe in the summer or winter.
Asthma sufferers often experience even more serious symptoms, and symptoms may even become life-threatening for these patients.
Is It Allergies or COVID?
Allergies and the coronavirus share common symptoms, so it can be scary to know whether you’re suffering from one or the other.
According to the CDC, people with moderate or severe asthma may be at greater risk for developing life-threatening or more serious symptoms of COVID-19 (though most seasonal and environmental allergies aren’t a huge risk).
If you’re worried your allergy symptoms may actually be symptoms of COVID, you may want to talk to a healthcare provider or get tested for the coronavirus. If you’re suffering from life-threatening symptoms (such as shortness of breath, blue skin, light-headedness, or inability to maintain consciousness) head to a hospital or call 911 immediately.
Allergies Vs Seasonal Allergies
There are several types of allergies, including seasonal, environmental, food, contact dermatitis, bug, and animal. The treatment is similar for all types of allergies, but you may want to talk to your doctor (or contact a doctor at a digital clinic) if you’re suffering from a specific type of allergy.
Seasonal allergies differ from other allergies because the allergens that spark seasonal allergies generally only arise during certain seasons. Spring allergies are common because there’s more pollen in the air as plants are blooming, and fall allergies are common as leaves fall to the ground, collect mold, and get turned over as they’re raked.
Causes of Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies often hit hardest in the spring and autumn. Most allergies are the result of high levels of pollen or mold in the air; pollen can come from trees, flowers, grass, weeds, and leaves.
Many Americans report spring allergies causing the most severe symptoms, while others complain more fervently about fall allergies.
Allergy season starts in February in the South and can last throughout December; northern states often report a shorter allergy season with symptoms starting in April or May and lasting through October. (Some allergy sufferers get a break from symptoms in the summer.)
The most common spring allergens include:
Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
For some, spring allergies can be brutal and may even be debilitating. Sufferers often experience dry, itchy, crusty, watery eyes, an itchy nose, sneezing, and coughing.
Most summer allergies subside by summer, but some people also suffer from uncomfortable symptoms throughout the summer months, too.
Ragweed is the biggest allergy trigger in the fall. Though it usually starts to release pollen with cool nights and warm days in August, it can last into September and October. This allergen only releases pollen in the autumn (not in the spring).
About 75% of people allergic to spring plants also have reactions to ragweed.
Autumn allergies are also serious for people allergic to mold. Most of the states in the U.S. experience rainy seasons in the autumn and leaves that fall to the ground in September and October may grow mold if consistently wet.
Preventing Seasonal Allergies
If you want to avoid the seasonal stress of allergies, you’re not alone. It’s not easy to avoid allergens, but it isn’t impossible; there are a few steps you can take to prevent more uncomfortable symptoms, such as shortness of breath, stuffy nose, and itchy eyes, including the following.
Check Pollen Counts
Check pollen counts at the start of each day. Many weather apps post pollen and counts along with local weather data.
If the pollen counts are high, take extra precautions. If you can stay inside or at home, you may want to avoid heading outside for the day. Pollen counts are often worse on windy days, so it’s usually a safe bet to stay inside during windy weather.
Pollen counts often lower after a heavy rain, so you may want to schedule outdoor activities for the day after a big rainstorm.
Wash Away Pollen
It’s easy to bring pollen indoors with you.
If you go outside, change your clothes when you go back into the house. You’ll also want to take a shower or bath as soon as possible to wash off any pollen particles that could have landed on your skin.
You’ll definitely want to wash your hair and face before going to bed as pollen can transfer from your skin and hair onto your pillows and sheets.
Seasonal Allergy Diagnosis
If you suffer (or suspect you suffer) from seasonal allergies, you’ll want to get tested first.
It’s common for patients to assume they suffer from allergies when they’re actually experiencing symptoms of an entirely different condition altogether. Allergy tests can determine the exact cause of an allergic reaction (whether it’s ragweed, tree pollen, mold, and more).
Your allergist is more likely to prescribe the right medication for your symptoms if you know exactly what allergens are causing symptoms.
To get tested for seasonal allergies, you can head into your doctor’s office for a consultation and get tested at any local testing facility. If you have a referral for an allergist, you can make an appointment directly with the allergist for testing.
Seasonal Allergies Treatment
For most seasonal allergies, there are three types of treatments: prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and immunotherapy. Most patients prefer to take medications for seasonal allergies because symptoms only persist for a few weeks.
Yet if your allergies are more severe or last several months of the year, you may want to consider immunotherapy for long-term relief.
Personalized Prescription Treatment
One of the most popular treatments for seasonal allergies is personalized prescription medication. Most allergy medications fall into three categories: oral antihistamines, nasal sprays, and eye drops.
Prescription allergy treatments differ from over-the-counter (OTC) medications; they’re prescribed by an allergist or doctor and the exact amount of active ingredient is always prescribed, meaning you won’t get too much or too little of an ingredient.
Allergists can also advise you on how to take your allergy medication. One of the biggest allergy medication mistakes is not taking the medication correctly.
Telehealth digital clinics like Picnic can connect you to an allergist from the comfort of your own home. Simply fill out a form online, and an allergist will reach out for an email consultation. All prescription medications will be delivered right to your home.
Antihistamines simply prevent your immune system from releasing antibodies that cause inflammation. This type of medication is usually taken in tablet form once a day.
Oral antihistamines must be taken for several weeks before seasonal allergy symptoms usually arise to work properly. These days, most oral antihistamines tote very few side effects (they used to make patients notoriously drowsy or sleepy) and don’t need to be taken with food.
Nasal sprays are another popular prescription allergy treatment. They come in both antihistamine and steroid forms. Simply follow the instructions provided by your allergist, and you’ll avoid or lessen seasonal allergy symptoms.
Nasal sprays are ideal for anyone that suffers from nasal symptoms specifically (though most nasal sprays also help with eye symptoms, too).
Prescription eye drops are a great option for anyone suffering from severe allergy eye symptoms. These drops can be taken once a day to prevent serious symptoms, or some doctors may recommend using them as spot treatments.
If your seasonal allergies aren’t severe, you may want to head to a local pharmacy to get OTC allergy medications.
Most OTC allergy medications are available in oral antihistamine, nasal spray, or eye drop form. Most pharmacies won’t sell steroid treatments over the counter.
The one major downside to OTC allergy meds is that they’re one-size-fits-all (meaning you’re likely to get a dosage of too much or too little of an active ingredient).
If you suffer from severe allergies, you may want to try immunotherapy. Immunotherapy introduces small amounts of an allergen into your system over time so your body can build a natural defense against it.
This therapy is available as an allergy shot or allergy drops.
Regardless of which method you choose, you’ll need to get the treatment several times a year over the course of several years.
The biggest downfalls to immunotherapy are the time it takes to become immune to allergens (up to five years) and the cost ($1,000-to-$5,000).