How to Beat Your Spring Allergies

How to Beat Your Spring Allergies | UPMC Italy

Sometimes, you have to take the good with the bad. The beauty of spring also brings seasonal allergies, sometimes called hay fever or allergic rhinitis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19.1 million adults and 6.1 million children struggle with spring allergies. They deal with itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and other symptoms as snow melts and plants begin to grow again.

But there are solutions to spring allergies — read on to learn more.

What Causes Seasonal Allergies?

Spring is well-known for its blooms and blossoms. And those same blooms and blossoms produce pollen.

Pollen is released from trees, flowers, weeds, and bushes. All kinds of plant life release pollen into the air, and these small particles can travel for miles from their original plant.

For many people, breathing in airborne pollen doesn’t bother them at all. For allergy sufferers, however, the body recognizes pollen as a foreign invader. Their body mounts an immune response to eliminate it.

It’s this immune response that causes the classic symptoms of allergies, including:

  • Sneezing.
  • Stuffy, runny nose.
  • Watery, itchy eyes.

Some patients also may have asthma symptoms, including:

  • Coughing.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.

Managing Your Spring Allergies

For allergy sufferers, a windy day is their worst enemy. The wind can pick up pollen, spreading it great distances and filling the air with allergens.

A rainy day, however, has the opposite effect and can effectively scrub the air of pollen. This allows people with allergies to breathe freely. If possible, people with allergies may want to stay indoors during high-pollen, windy days.

Other ideas for high-pollen days include:

  • Changing your outer layer and washing your hair when you come inside for the day.
  • Keeping doors and windows closed to prevent pollen from coming inside.
  • Trying one of the many different medication types to manage your symptoms.
  • Using saltwater rinses and sprays to help irrigate the nasal passages and clean out pollen.

All pollens do not occur at the same time. Tree pollens start first in spring, followed by the grass pollens in May. Finally, the weed pollens (of which ragweed is the most common) start in the fall.

You can see an allergist to help determine which plant pollen is causing your spring allergies. The allergist will administer a test in which an allergen is pricked into your skin. They will test many species of pollen at once, and the pollen that produces an allergic response is the culprit. Some patients may need a breathing test to rule out asthma.

Knowing what you’re allergic can help you choose which trees and grasses to plant around your home. But even these measures may not fully protect you from allergy symptoms.

Treatment for Spring Allergies

Many over-the-counter medications are available to treat your allergy symptoms. Antihistamine pills, steroid and decongestant nasal sprays, and even eye drops are your first-line treatment options.

You should not take decongestant nasal sprays for more than three days in a row because they can make your nasal symptoms worse. Also, common antihistamines can make you very sleepy.

If over-the-counter medications are ineffective, you can consult with your health care provider about the next level of treatment. This can include prescription-strength medication, allergy shots, and recently developed immunotherapy tablets.

If your symptoms worsen or are not controlled by the available therapies, you should consider seeing an allergist.

Fortunately for spring allergy sufferers, spring will turn to summer and the world will be breathable again.

Learn more about UPMC's analytical laboratory and available allergy testing.