Summer is almost here — time to break out the barbecues, pool parties and day trips to the playground. However, it also means seasonal allergies are in full swing. These allergic reactions range from mild to severe and occur when your immune system overreacts to stimulants like pollen.
They cause respiratory symptoms like coughing, congestion and sneezing. It can also cause sore throats and itchy, watering eyes. The symptoms can make it hard to enjoy time outside without treatment, such as over-the-counter medication or advanced prescription therapies.
Knowing fun facts about allergies can help you get through the season. Here are five facts about seasonal allergies that can help you feel better.
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1. Millions Can Empathize With You
Around 50 million Americans live with seasonal allergies each year. That’s a lot of people who can understand your plight.
Seasonal allergies can develop at any age, so don’t be surprised if you have allergies as an adult but not as a child. If they affect children, the signs typically arise between the ages of 1 and 10.
If you were diagnosed as a child and don’t seem to have allergies now, that’s also normal. Kids can grow out of seasonal allergies, but it’s best to go for allergy testing to be sure your allergy is gone. Common seasonal allergies for children and adults are tree pollen, grass pollen and ragweed pollen, though those aren’t the only culprits out there.
2. They Are Getting More Troublesome
The prevalence of allergies is more significant than before. A study on childhood allergies found their prevalence increased over the past few decades.
Scientists attribute at least part of the problem to climate change. It extends the growing season for many pollen-producing plants, lengthening the allergy season. The longer time also contributes to mold allergies.
Allergies — including seasonal ones — are a leading cause of chronic illness. They contribute to sinusitis, asthma, ear infections and upper respiratory infections.
You may still have an allergic reaction even if you move to a new location without your allergen. Several types of pollen are cross-reactive, meaning their proteins could be similar enough to other plants that you still react. For example, some people allergic to birch pollen respond similarly when they eat apples. Tree nuts, grasses and even different pollen could cause you to sniffle.
3. Your Hormones Can Influence Them
The hormones in your body can increase your sensitivity to allergens — particularly in women. High estrogen levels increase the amount of histamines your body produces — a hormone that increases your susceptibility to mold and pollen. Throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, histamine levels fluctuate, causing itching, swelling and discomfort.
Spiking hormones during pregnancy can also cause you to experience more allergy symptoms. Menopause can lessen or worsen allergy symptoms, depending on how your hormones fluctuate.
Male hormones also play a part in how someone reacts to allergens. While estrogen increases your susceptibility, testosterone decreases it. If a man suffers from increased allergies, it could be a symptom of a hormonal imbalance.
4. Flower Allergies are Uncommon but Severe
Though many think so, flower pollen is not a significant cause of seasonal allergies. This pollen is heavier than grass, weeds and trees.
However, avoiding flowers with loose pollen is best if you have severe seasonal allergies. Chrysanthemums, daisies, dahlias and sunflowers are heavy pollen producers that could reinforce your allergy symptoms.
If you want to beautify your exterior, roses, peonies and orchids are great for yards, and you can bring them inside to create allergy-friendly bouquets. Remember that pollen for allergy-aggravating pollen can land on flowers, so it’s best to allergy-proof your yard as much as possible.
5. You Should Take Your Medicine All Season
You might think you only need to take your allergy medication when you experience symptoms, but that’s often untrue. The inflammatory response caused by allergens can last for weeks. By taking your medication throughout the season, you can minimize the amount and severity of your symptoms.
Most allergy medications work best as preventative measures, not treatment. If you start and stop your medications, your symptoms will likely return.
Scientists design many medicines to begin working two to four weeks before pollen levels spike. However, each person is different and it’s best to talk to your doctor before changing your medication routine, even with over-the-counter products.
Ways to Treat Seasonal Allergies
If you live with seasonal allergy symptoms, there are many treatment options.
- OTC allergy pills: Many antihistamine pills are safe to sell over the counter. For children, there are many liquid options. If you experience allergy symptoms, you can try taking the medicine as the manufacturer recommends. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure any new medications are safe.
- Saline nasal spray: These sprays don’t contain medication but can safely clear pollen from your mucous membranes.
- Prescription medications: If over-the-counter products don’t work, there are prescription options your doctor may recommend to treat your allergy symptoms.
- Injections: Treatment for severe allergy symptoms could include a series of injections that provide a small amount of the allergy to desensitize your body.
- Avoiding the allergen: Keeping your allergen out of your yard as much as possible and washing your hands after encountering them can help you avoid symptoms.
Know the Facts About Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies can be frustrating. No one likes spending the spring and summer sniffling and keeping their windows closed. However, the more you know about them, the more you can take the proper steps to reduce your symptoms and enjoy the season.