Also known as hay fever, seasonal allergies occur when a person’s immune system overreacts to an external allergen like pollen. An allergy occurs because the body sees these allergens as a threat. On detecting an allergen, our body’s immune system releases histamines which induce the physical symptoms of allergies. The most common culprits of these allergies are pollens from grasses, weeds, and trees. Seasonal allergies are very common with more than 10 million cases in India. Allergic rhinitis affects 10% – 30% population of the world. Some researchers believe that around 50 million people are affected by nasal allergies in the United States and 30% adults and 40% of children are affected by allergies.
However, the allergens differ as per the seasons. In spring, tree pollen triggers allergies whereas, in the summertime, the grass causes allergies. From late summer to the end of the fall season, ragweed causes allergies. Also, mold and dust cause allergies all throughout the year. People may experience mild to severe symptoms of seasonal allergies. Most common symptoms include – runny or stuffy nose, watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, ear congestion, itchy sinuses, throat or ear canals, and postnasal drainage. Few less common symptoms may include – shortness of breath, coughing, headache, and wheezing. Many times, people with hay fever also have asthma.
The exact cause of these seasonal allergies is not yet known, however, it is suspected that genetics may indirectly cause allergies. Although one does not inherit specific allergy, he/she can have a tendency to develop an allergy in case one of the parents have allergies. In order to avoid seasonal allergies, one must take certain precautions. Such as, it is advisable to use air conditioner instead of ceiling fans during summer to cool your home. Make sure the AC has a HEPA filter. Avoid going out when the pollen count is high. One must check the local weather network and should remain indoors in case the pollen count is high. When the hay fever is active, keep your windows shut, avoid outdoor activities and wear a dust mask whenever you have to go out. Take a shower and change clothes after coming home. Make sure that your pets are also clean as their fur can contain dander and outdoor allergens. Also, it is vital to stay away from cigarette smoking as it can aggravate the symptoms.
You can also take help of allergy medications that are anti-histamines. These medicines slow down the action and production of the naturally released histamines in your body. It is advisable to take these medicines before the allergy season starts, as it helps in better preventing the occurrence of the allergy. In severe cases, the doctor may suggest allergy shots, which are a type of immunotherapy that helps to desensitize the immune system to allergens. However, some allergy medicines may cause side effects such as dizziness, confusion, and drowsiness.
It is prudent to seek help from your doctor as soon as you experience the symptoms of seasonal allergies.