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Spring can mean the start of longer days and warmer weather, but for some, it means fighting seasonal allergies with sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. Find out what you need to know about seasonal allergies including some common causes, options for managing the symptoms, and when to see your doctor.
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Allergies (allergic rhinitis) occur when your immune system overreacts to particles in the air that you breathe.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, each spring, summer, and fall − and even in the winter in some states − plants release tiny pollen grains to fertilize other plants of the same species. Most of the pollen that causes allergic reactions comes from trees, grasses, and weeds. These plants make small, light, and dry pollen grains that travel by the wind. They then can find their way into your eyes, nose, and lungs, causing allergy symptoms if you have a pollen allergy.
As your immune system attacks these particles, you may experience common allergy symptoms:
Seasonal allergies commonly start in the early spring months and last throughout the summer and into the fall.
The most common seasonal allergy trigger is pollen. Other causes include:
“Allergies are treated to reduce symptoms,” says Dr. Nguyen. “If there are known triggers, try to avoid them.”
Dr. Nguyen adds that patients can take over-the-counter oral medication (ie. antihistamines like Claritin, Zyrtec), do a nasal rinse, use over-the-counter glucocorticoid nasal spray (ie. Flonase, Nasacort), or use over-the-counter eye drops. If these medications do not improve your symptoms, you should see your primary care provider.
Working with an allergist can help to determine what you are allergic to and ways you can treat and manage your symptoms. More aggressive treatment, such as immunotherapy or allergy shots, is available for those who have tried over-the-counter medicines and prescriptions with no relief.
Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that alters the immune system's response to an allergen. It is done to induce tolerance to the allergen by administering the allergen at a certain dosage over a period of time.
“A patient should be referred to an allergist by their primary care provider if they need further allergy testing to identify allergic triggers, has prolonged or severe symptoms despite treatment, or if they are interested in immunotherapy,” says Dr. Nguyen.
If you have questions or concerns about your seasonal allergy symptoms, contact your primary care provider.