If your seasonal allergies make you miserable, you’re not alone. More than 50 million Americans experience allergy symptoms each year. The good news is that there are measures you can take to minimize the impact of seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies are usually caused by three main types of pollen: trees, grass, and weeds. They’re called “seasonal allergies” because each type of pollen has a season when they’re most potent.
What is an allergy? Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to substances that generally do not affect other individuals. These substances, or allergens, can cause sneezing, coughing, and itching. Allergic reactions range from merely bothersome to life-threatening. Some allergies are seasonal, like hay fever. Allergies have also been associated with chronic conditions like sinusitis and asthma.
Here’s a general timeline of common pollen seasons:
March through June is tree pollen season
June, July, and August are usually when grass pollens are high, sometimes into September in a warm year
August through the end of October is weed pollen season – it takes a hard freeze to kill off the weeds
Some outdoor molds also peak in the fall months
November to early February generally provide some relief for seasonal allergy sufferers
At Urban Family Practice, providing allergy sufferers with an improved quality of life has become one of our top goals, which complements our general mission of providing the highest quality, comprehensive healthcare to our patients.
Using scratch testing, the gold standard for allergy screening, we can isolate precisely which allergens are troubling patients, provide immunotherapy, and create the opportunity to vastly improve your quality of life.
Our scratch test checks for allergic reactions to the top 50 environmental allergens that can be found in Georgia —ranging from trees and grasses to molds and cat dander.
Once you have identified what allergies you have here are a few ways to cope:
- Stay inside if it’s windy and warm.
Pollen counts tend to rise on dry, warm, and windy days, so if it’s breezy outside, try to stay indoors.
- Go outside at the right times.
Pollen counts are highest in the morning and again at night, so if you need to go outside, try to do it when counts are low.
- Know which pollen you’re allergic to – and respond accordingly.
When it comes to seasonal allergies, it’s important to know exactly what you’re allergic to so you can appropriate action. Simply monitoring the pollen count each day isn’t effective. If you don’t know what you’re allergic to, it’s hard to limit exposure.
- Start your medication regimen early
If you know you experience allergies each year, start your allergy regimen about a week before your specific allergy season starts. That way the medication is already in your system before the season starts.
- Close windows and doors
It might be tempting to let the crisp spring breeze into your home, but when you suffer from allergies, you just might be opening Pandora’s box. Instead, turn on the air conditioner to keep the pollen out and the temperature cool in your home.
- Keep your home clear of dust and allergens
Keeping your home free of dust can make a big difference in keeping your seasonal allergies under control. Dust contains pollen and other irritants that can trigger your allergies. In addition, cigarette, cigar, and other types of smoke – including fumes from a wood-burning stove – make allergy symptoms worse, so steer clear of these irritants to help keep your allergies at bay.
- Shower at night
Because pollen can stick to your clothes, skin, and hair, it’s important to shower each night to remove any irritants. Remember to also remove and wash any clothing that was exposed to the pollen. You’ll sleep better at night if the pollen doesn’t have a chance of getting into your bed.
- Pre-medicate with an antihistamine or put on a pollen mask before you go outside
Take an antihistamine before you go outside to mow the lawn, rake leaves, play with your kids, and other activities that result in pollen exposure. Wearing a pollen mask is also an easy way to reduce exposure to irritants. Pollen masks are available at most pharmacies for additional protection against allergens.
- Manage pet dander
This one may sound like a no-brainer, but if you’re allergic to pets, don’t get one. If you have a pet, at the very least, keep them out of your bedroom and off of your bed. And even if you’re not allergic to pets, they can carry pollen on their fur, brush their hair frequently, wash your hands after touching them, and never rub your eyes after petting them. Vacuuming your house at least once per week can also do wonders to keep pet dander at bay.
- Beware of mold
Some people can have a mold-specific allergy – both indoor and outdoor mold. One way to lessen mold in your home is to wipe away any standing water in the bathroom and shower area. Using a ventilation fan when you take a shower also helps to reduce the chance of mold. If you have a mold allergy, exercise caution when you use a humidifier. Aim to keep the humidity level in your home below 60 percent. Anything higher can cause mold to grow in your home.
When to seek medical help
If you’re unresponsive to, or have to take multiple over-the-counter allergy medications, or if your allergies cause you to cough or wheeze, you could be suffering from multiple allergies – which means it’s time to see a doctor. Uncontrolled allergies have a strong association with asthma and can also lead to frequent upper-respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis or a sinus infection, so it’s important to see a medical professional who can assess your symptoms and develop a tailored treatment plan, which includes testing you for allergies, asthma, and other conditions.