What are Seasonal Allergies?

By | June 6, 2011

Seasonal allergies are one of the most common medical problems that occur mostly during the seasons of spring, summer and fall. Seasonal allergies are non-discriminatory and can affect people of any age. Seasonal allergies will vary in different regions depending on the time of the year and the types of plants that are in the area. Most pollen levels tend to be the highest in the morning. Some of the most common seasonal allergies include allergies to weeds, grasses, flowers and trees. Certain types of outdoor mold spores can also cause seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies are often referred to as allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, which is a collection of allergic reactions that irritate the eyes and nose.

How Does Pollen Cause Seasonal Allergies?

Pollens are small, egg-shaped grains that are released from plants during their flowering stages. Pollens are carried by the wind and certain insects in order to pollinate other plants for reproductive purposes. Pollens in the air can end up in a person’s nose, eyes and lungs. Pollens can also end up on the surface of skin to cause an allergic reaction. Plants that have bright flowers and rely on insects for pollination generally do not cause seasonal allergies since those pollens are not carried by the wind.

What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies?

The symptoms of seasonal allergies include nasal congestion, a runny-nose, sneezing, itchy nose, breaking out in hives and post-nasal drip. Some people may even experience ocular allergy symptoms that cause the eyes to be red, painful, watery, itchy and swollen. In severe cases, the eyes will discharge a thin, mucus-like substance that hardens overnight while sleeping and causes the eyelids to be stuck together.

When Do Seasonal Allergies Occur?

Depending on the location and the climate, the pollination of weeds, plants, flowers and trees begin between the months of January and April. Trees that cause seasonal allergies to flare up include elm, birch, oak, hickory, poplar, ash, maple, cypress, olive and walnut.

Many people are allergic to a wide variety of grass pollens which include southern grasses which tend to pollinate in the late spring and early summer. The pollen counts of grass are usually the highest during this time. However, many people have reported that mowing the lawn or coming into contact with grass during other times throughout the year can cause allergic reactions even if the pollen count is low. Hives are a very common allergic reaction to grass pollen and it is referred to as contact urticarial.

Weeds are the main cause of seasonal allergies from late summer to early fall and include ragweed, pigweed, sagebrush, cocklebur and tumbleweed. In other regions of the world, certain trees may be the cause of seasonal allergies in the fall.

How Can Seasonal Allergies Be Avoided?

Although there is no way to completely avoid seasonal allergies, there are things that can be done to reduce your exposure to allergens. Check your local television station, newspaper or the Internet to find out the current pollen levels as well as the pollen forecasts. If the pollen counts are high, staying indoors and taking an allergy pill will help you reduce your chance of an allergic reaction. Although it is difficult for homeowners with yard work obligations, try to avoid mowing the lawn or coming into contact with freshly cut grass whenever possible.

What are the Treatments for Seasonal Allergies?

There are many over-the-counter medications that can help reduce allergy symptoms such as antihistamines and decongestants. Antihistamines will help to reduce itching, sneezing, nasal dripping and watery eyes. One of the most effective oral antihistamines is diphenhydramine. This medication can reduce the severity of your allergic reaction after coming into contact with allergens. Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine help to provide short-term relief from nasal congestion.

Natural treatments for seasonal allergies include nasal irrigation, local honey and herbal supplements. Rinsing your nasal passages with salt water is an inexpensive way to flush out allergens to relieve nasal congestion. Local honey is a great way to build up a tolerance to local allergens because it is made from honeybees that have collected local pollens from the area. The allergens that are contained in the honey come in such small doses that the effect of regular honey consumption is much like having a series of allergy immunology injections.

Herbal supplements such as butterbur, Omega 3 fatty acids, stinging nettle, quercetin, and spirulina have also been used to reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies.

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