If you sneeze and itch at the same time every year you may have a seasonal allergy. Seasonal allergies, also called hay fever, are inconvenient and uncomfortable. But you don’t have to suffer! Find out what you can do now to control your symptoms so that you can enjoy the weather every season.
How Do I Know If I Have Seasonal Allergies?
You may have seasonal allergies if your allergy symptoms occur at certain times of the year. You might feel the following symptoms every day or only during certain activities:
Bluish circles under your eyes
Popping or pressure in your ears
Welts or itchy raised areas on your skin (hives)
Itchy eyes, nose, mouth, throat or skin
Postnasal drip, or excessive mucus dripping from the back of your nose down your throat
Coughing or sneezing
Thin, watery discharge from the nose or nasal congestion
Reduced sense of smell and taste
Eye redness and tearing
Pressure in the cheeks
Your primary care doctor or an allergist can determine if your symptoms are due to seasonal allergies or other conditions, such as a cold or sinusitis. Your doctor will examine you and ask about your medical history and symptoms.
Tests may include skin testing and a blood test. Skin testing involves injecting small amounts of allergy causing substances under your skin and watching for a localized reaction. A blood test measures IgE antibodies, which are the substances in your blood that cause allergies.
Who Gets Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies can affect anyone but commonly run in families. Children are affected by allergies more than adults. Other risk factors include:
What Can I Do to Prevent Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies are caused by pollen, which are tiny particles produced from certain types of plants, namely weeds, grasses, and trees.
Common seasonal allergies include:
Tree pollen allergies, which often occur in spring
Grass and weed pollen allergies, which are most common in summer
Ragweed allergy, which is generally a problem in late summer and fall
Try these tips to reduce your contact with pollen and prevent your symptoms:
Close your windows, stay indoors, and use air conditioning when pollen counts are high. This often occurs in the morning and on warm, dry, windy days. Local weather reports provide daily information about pollen conditions.
Use an air purifier and furnace filter designed for allergies, and change the filters often.
After being outdoors, change your clothes and take a shower to wash off pollen.
Put a cool wet compress to your face when you begin to feel symptoms.
Avoid raking leaves and mowing the lawn, or wear a dust mask.
What Are the Best Remedies for Seasonal Allergy Relief?
If prevention measures are not enough, you may need medications to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms.
Many people find relief with the following medications:
Antihistamines to relieve sneezing, itching, irritated eyes, and runny nose
Nasal saline sprays to rinse out allergens and help break up nasal congestion
Corticosteroids to reduce and prevent nasal congestion and itchiness
Decongestants to reduce nasal congestion and include pills, liquids and nasal sprays
Montelukast (Singulair) to reduce many seasonal allergy symptoms. It is a leukotriene modifier that is often prescribed for people with mold allergies and asthma.
Allergy shots can help you if you have moderate to severe seasonal allergies and do not find relief with other medications. Ask your doctor about allergy shots, which are also known as allergy immunotherapy.
Both prescription and over-the counter medications can have side effects so ask your doctor before trying them.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
If you have bothersome seasonal allergy symptoms call your doctor. Your doctor will help you manage your symptoms with a logical treatment plan that includes avoidance measures and medications.
In addition, call your doctor if you have:
Allergy symptoms despite following your treatment plan
Side effects from medication
New symptoms such as a fever, which suggests an infection