Do you have symptoms of stuffy nose, sneezing and watery, itchy eyes that ebb and flow with the growing season and get worse when it’s windy? Then, chances are you suffer from seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies, frequently called hay fever, appear with the onset of the growing season in the spring and disappear after the first hard frost in the fall. They are triggered by pollen grains, released by trees, grasses or weeds. You may have perennial allergies as well. These year-round allergies are caused by allergens, such as pet dander, mold, house dust mites, cockroaches, or other substances found indoors.
Pollens are airborne which explains why your allergies can fire up on windy days. These pollens can end up on your skin or in your eyes, nose and lungs which sets you up for an allergic reaction.
Pollen levels can vary widely in the area where you live. For instance, you may have less of a problem when you are in the inner city and more when you travel to suburbs or rural areas. You may have heard people tell you to avoid going outside in the early morning. That’s because pollen levels tend to be highest from early to mid-morning, from 5-10 a.m.
The appearance of seasonal allergies may vary depending on the climate and area where you live. However, some general guidelines are:
•Tree pollens flourish from early to late spring or anytime from January to May.
•Grass pollens make their presence known in late spring to mid-summer, or April to mid-July.
•Weeds start contributing their pollens in late spring to fall, or April to October.
•Ragweed tends to be the culprit in late summer to fall, or late August to first hard frost.
•Mold spores may cause problems in the fall, especially when you are raking leaves or doing yard work.
Many people are allergic to more than one type of pollen. Those allergic to all three will suffer throughout the growing season. Someone with tree pollen and ragweed allergies will experience symptoms in spring and fall. Someone allergic to both trees and grasses can expect spring to be their worse season.
You can find out which pollens are high through daily reports on radio and television, and in the newspaper. The reports tell you whether pollen levels are low, moderate, high or severe.
An allergist can help you determine if you have seasonal allergies. Several tests (skin prick or blood test) are available to pinpoint which types of pollens are your allergy triggers. Your doctor may suggest you take antihistamines or get allergy shots which help desensitize you to certain allergens.
Some tips for minimizing pollen exposure include:
•Keep windows closed to lessen the amount of pollen drifting indoors.
•Keep car windows shut while driving.
•Reduce outside activity during the early morning hours when pollen is highest.
•Stay indoors when pollen counts are high and on windy days.
•Avoid yard work such as mowing the lawn.
•Shower to remove pollens from your hair and skin.