Seasonal allergies can leave you feeling like you’ve been hit by a freight train. Between the sinus headaches, runny noses, and sore throats, it can be a struggle to get out of bed! Whether your allergies come in the spring or fall, you probably don’t want to spend an entire season struggling with your head feeling like a balloon. Seasonal allergies are preventable and treatable, but before we cover how, you need to understand what causes them and why this influences how to treat them.
Common Causes of Seasonal Allergies
Allergies are caused by your body’s reaction to foreign substances entering your system. Often, these substances are harmless to many people, but if you suffer from allergies, your immune system interprets them to be dangerous. It jumps into action to protect you from harm.
Generally speaking, seasonal allergies (sometimes called hay fever) are allergies to pollen and/or mold. This makes two particular seasons especially bad for people with seasonal allergies, spring and fall. Spring allergy season runs from around the end of February up until early summer. In this season, there’s pollen from trees and grasses, among other plants in bloom. In the fall, ragweed pollen and mold are large allergy contributors, especially on the East Coast and in the Midwest of the United States. Fall allergy season starts late summer, around August, and goes until as late as October.
Spring allergy season runs from around the end of February up until early summer, while fall allergy season starts late summer, around August, and goes until as late as October.
Allergy seasons are not always equally as heavy or light, either. You can observe certain environmental factors to predict if seasonal allergies may be bad this season. Pollen flourishes in warm weather, especially when it’s windy. Also, while rain may initially prevent a pollen spike, once it passes, allergens can get bad again. The time of day can also influence the allergen count, since early morning and early evening are reported to have higher levels of pollen.
Remedies for Seasonal Allergies
Checking your local weather is a smart way to avoid the risk of seasonal allergies, since many programs include an allergen alert. If the risk of allergies is bad (e.g., if there’s high pollen count), stay indoors if you can. If you need to go out and start experiencing seasonal allergy symptoms, you have a few treatment options.
Medicine for Relief
For the most part, it’s easy to get your hands on a drug that’ll help you get through an allergy attack. Allergies are an abnormal reaction to foreign substances that are misidentified by the immune system as potential dangers in the body. This is why only some people are allergic to certain things. Since there’s technically no cause to treat (no virus or bacteria for a medication to stop), most treatments only handle the symptoms.
Allergies are an abnormal reaction to foreign substances that are misidentified by the immune system as potential dangers in the body.
Common antihistamines are readily available over-the-counter in most drug stores. An antihistamine blocks the release of histamines, compounds your body releases to fight foreign substances, helping to prevent allergy symptoms. Decongestants can reduce the pressure you feel from your stuffy nose and sinuses, which can relieve your headache if you have one. You can also turn to nasal sprays.
One nasal spray, cromolyn sodium, can lessen some allergy symptoms, though it’s most effective when used before symptoms begin. Another spray that may help is a nasal steroid. These have an anti-inflammatory effect that reduces swelling and mucus production. Often, they’re used with antihistamines.
Natural solutions to seasonal allergies can also handle the symptoms. For example, drinking extra liquids can thin out mucus in your nasal passages, especially hot liquids. We’ve already covered why chicken soup can help relieve a cold. The same logic applies to why it can relieve seasonal allergies, too. Steam from hot liquids, whether it’s broth, coffee, or tea, can help decongest your nose and sinuses and provide you much-needed respite.
Drinking extra liquids can thin out mucus in your nasal passages, especially hot liquids.
Another non-pill option is to try a nasal rinse, which can wash allergens and mucus out of your nasal cavities. You can find prepared nasal rinses in drug stores or make your own. To do it yourself, mix half a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of baking powder, and eight ounces of sterilized water in a neti pot or nasal bulb. When you’re ready, lean over a sink or tub and rinse one nostril at a time.
If you’re looking for more options, you can try other treatments that follow the all-natural path to relief, like remedies with butterbur or goldenseal.
When You May Want to See a Doctor
Most cases of seasonal allergies will go away on their own once the allergen is gone. If your allergies don’t subside, you have especially strong symptoms, or nothing brings you relief, it’s probably a good idea to see your primary care physician. They may be able to give you a stronger medication or teach you techniques that will help you.
If your allergies don’t subside, you have especially strong symptoms, or nothing brings you relief, it’s probably a good idea to see your primary care physician.
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Seasonal allergies can be a nuisance throughout the year, and life doesn’t just stop while you recover. If you find yourself floored by seasonal allergies, remember the preventative strategies and treatments that can help you push through them.