Allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever or seasonal allergies, makes the lives of 40 million to 60 million Americans miserable every spring. The tree pollen season is upon us and it can last until mid-May, which is also when allergies from pollen and grass usually kick. There is no cure for spring allergies, but there are several ways in which you can manage the symptoms and alleviate how they affect you.
Symptoms of environmental allergies include itchy watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, and post-nasal drainage. For some people it can trigger asthma symptoms and worsen skin conditions like eczema, according to Dr. Manav Segal from Chestnut Hill Allergy & Asthma Associates in Philadelphia. These allergy symptoms are due to the activation of allergy cells in sensitive/allergic patients.
Factors affecting the pollen counts and allergy seasons are related to climate change, Dr. Segal says. “Global warming is resulting in shorter, warmer winters, and changing precipitation patterns. The result is earlier spring season, higher pollen counts, more pollinating vegetation, and a longer growing season.” These factors will account for more severe allergy symptoms for allergic individuals, he adds. “It will also result in more people feeling the effects.”
When people do not recognize they have seasonal allergies, it is usually because they assume symptoms are due to an upper respiratory infection, Dr. Segal says. “Dietary recommendations I have made are [being] more holistic in maintaining a healthy well balanced diet [and] regular exercise.”
The best action you can take against seasonal allergies is to avoid triggers. During the spring allergy season, the pollen counts are the highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., he adds. “Limiting outside exposure during those times can be extremely helpful.” Also patients can limit exposure on mornings that are especially warm and dry; these will usually be the high pollen count days.
Other ways to help yourself, according to Dr. Segal, include: Showering and washing your hair can reduce pollen levels you continue to expose yourself to indoors; using nasal steroid sprays products which act on multiple inflammatory substances including histamine, and allergen immunotherapy. Also known as allergy shots, it is a form of long-term treatment that decreases symptoms for many people with allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, and conjunctivitis (eye allergy).
What you consume can have a significant impact on the severity of your allergic reaction as well.