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For a significant number of people, spring allergies are the pits. It is a constant runny-nosed, sniffling, sneezy battle against the allergens from flower buds and blooming trees. If this is you, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal allergies affect over 7% of American children and nearly 8% of adults, making them one of the leading chronic illnesses in the United States1.
Along with the spring season comes an increase in the number of allergens, including pollen from trees and flowers, dry grass, and weeds, making life miserable for many.
A person develops an allergy when their immune system overreacts to a particular substance, typically something otherwise harmless.
In response to whatever this substance is, the body’s white blood cells create special immune system chemicals called antibodies. The antibody that is created will be specific to the given allergen. These antibodies attached to other immune system cells, called mast cells, causing them to release a cavalcade of chemicals, including histamines. In an effort to prevent allergens from entering the body, histamine causes swelling in the eyes and nose, production of more nasal mucus, and sneezing to clear the nose of allergens.
Seasonal allergies are extremely prevalent in both children and adults. The CDC estimates that 7.1 million children experienced respiratory allergies in 2018 and that 5.2 million children had hay fever symptoms2. Children between the age of 12 to 17 are especially vulnerable to these allergens. Additionally, spring allergies might increase in severity and incidence of respiratory symptoms in people with asthma.
The symptoms of spring allergies can vary from person to person and trigger-to-trigger. Mostly, they consist of cold-like features, and commonly include one or more of the following:
Plants produce pollen, which are tiny grains used for reproduction. Pollen is released into the atmosphere as plants begin to blossom. While some plants use insects to spread their pollen, others use the wind. When pollen is on the wind and someone with a pollen allergy breathes it in, it will trigger an allergic reaction.
There are as many different types of pollen as there are types of plants. Not everyone will spring allergies will be allergic to all types of pollen – you may have noticed your spring allergies are limited to only a couple of weeks a year, indicating you are likely allergic to only one or two species’ pollen, or they may continue all spring, suggesting you may be allergic to multiple species’ pollen.
Here are some typical outdoor allergic triggers.
Early spring allergies are likely due to tree pollen, which is typically released between February and May depending on the location. Tree Pollen is associated with allergic rhinitis and is likely the most common trigger in the U.S. Triggering trees include:
Although trees are typically the main cause of spring allergies, they are not the sole culprit. If spring arrives early in some areas, weeds and grasses can cause allergy symptoms as early as March, then the pollen count of grasses like rye and bermuda rises through May, but the peak pollen count usually doesn't occur until June.
Some of the types of grass most commonly associated with allergic reactions are:
Indoor triggers are present all year long, but become considerably more prevalent in the spring due to various factors. Some indoor triggers include:
Mold can be spotted outside on decaying logs and leaves, on grasses and grains, in compost piles, and in other moist areas. Plants that have not endured the winter cold can decompose in the spring, becoming breeding grounds for mold.
More pressingly, mold can grow indoors, especially in wet areas like bathrooms, basements, and kitchens3. Black mold is a common problem for wood and plaster in houses in damp environments.
Insects are more common outside but can definitely make their own homes in ours.
In contrast to the symptoms of seasonal allergies to pollen, such as sneezing and congestion, insect bites and stings typically result in pain, itching, redness, and/or swelling around the afflicted area. Additionally, stings and bites can cause anaphylaxis, a severe or potentially fatal allergic reaction. Allergic reactions to insects account for over 10% of all cases of anaphylaxis4.
Therefore, if you experience major symptoms after a bite or sting, such as hives, lips, tongue, or throat swelling, difficulty breathing, or other symptoms, you must seek medical attention immediately.
It's common to be allergic to pet dander5. Pet dander is what we call a type of protein present in most animals’ fur or feathers. As it gets warmer outside, many pets start to molt their winter coats. As a result, there is more dander than usual, which can worsen allergy problems.
People can also be allergic to pet saliva and skin oils, both also present on animals’ fur or feathers, as well as their urine and feces.
Around half of the asthmatic population, and 1–2% of the global non-asthmatic population, is also allergic to dust mites, making them potentially the most important indoor allergy trigger6.
Dust mites are present all year long, but their populations typically rise through spring and summer to peak in July and September7. Particularly, if you engage in spring cleaning you can see an upsurge in symptoms, as you release the dust mite allergens from carpets and rugs. )), but how are spring allergies diagnosed?
To diagnose a spring allergy, a doctor may run several tests, including:
The doctor might inquire further about your symptoms, living and working conditions, and medical history in your family.
Read on to know how you can eliminate these annoying spring allergies.
Now that you have general information about the symptoms and causes of spring allergies, let’s find out how you can easily eliminate or control them.
Always discuss your symptoms and available treatments with your doctor or a board-certified allergist.
Fortunately, several over-the-counter and prescription remedies are available to ease the symptoms of spring allergies. These medications include:
To keep your symptoms under control, your doctor may prescribe a mix of medications. Usually, you have to take these medications in the form of:
Your doctor may also prescribe immunotherapy8 if these medications are unable to treat your symptoms totally. Immunotherapy exposes you to the allergen in progressively higher doses until your body becomes tolerant to it.
Compared to other allergy medications, the treatment can reduce your symptoms for a longer period of time. Additionally, the intensity of your allergic reactions may be lessened with this long-term treatment, even if they don’t go away entirely.
Those who suffer from severe allergies may need to always have an emergency epinephrine injection (Auvi-Q, EpiPen) on them. When given at the first sign of a severe allergic reaction, an epinephrine injection can lessen the symptoms sufficiently for the person to survive long enough to recieve further medical treatment.
Epinephrine injection is a first-aid measure and not a long-term treatment plan. It can save a life by giving more time to get someone to a hospital.
One can avoid outdoor allergens in the following ways:
There isn't a magic solution that will purge every allergen from the air in your house; however, the following ideas could be useful14:
Certain weather conditions can contribute to the severity of allergies. For example, dry, windy days cause an increase in pollen in the air, while rain helps reduce the amount.
It can be helpful to check the pollen count via local weather reports, allergy forecast apps, the national allergy bureau, or online weather reports before you go out. This will help you decide what other precautions, such as daily antihistamines or face masks, you need to take.
Using organic plant extracts and foods that serve as antihistamines can provide relief for people with allergies. Such remedies include:
This plant gets its name from people using its big leaves to wrap around butter in warm weather. Extracts from this plant are traditionally used for fever, headaches17, and nasal allergies18. It also blocks the creation of some leukotrienes19 (the chemical that causes swelling and increased mucus production in the nasal passages).
Butterbur might not be very well known, but may be one of the most effective herbal ways to fight off allergic reactions. A study in 200220 tested the effects on 125 patients and found that this plant has similar effects to an antihistamine.
A neti pot looks similar to a small teapot or bulb syringe made of plastic, ceramic, or porcelain. It’s used to flush out the mucus in the nasal cavity using a saline solution.
A study in 200621 showed that using a neti pot can be beneficial to patients experiencing hay fever, other nasal allergies, and colds. It can also relieve any cough you’ve developed from your allergies22.
When making your saline solution, adjust the amount of salt so you don’t experience stinging or burning sensations. Use the neti pot three to four times a day for the best outcome.
A healthy, balanced diet keeps your immune system in its best shape. However, it can be difficult to maintain a perfect diet and it's likely that your immune system could use a boost of certain nutrients. In this case, dietary supplements may be beneficial.
Inflammation and other biological responses brought on by allergic reactions can also be controlled with the use of specific vitamins and herbs such as:
A great deal of research has been done on how quercetin inhibits enzymes and inflammatory mediators to produce anti-allergic effects23. Its primary natural sources in the diet are fruits, onions, wine, tea, and broccoli.
This vitamin reduces the duration of the common cold through generally improving the immune system’s function24; however, when taken as a dietary supplement, high doses are required25. It is most effective through intravenous methods in hospitals26
These are dietary supplements that include beneficial bacteria that naturally live in your gut; this increases their population in your body, which is purported to have various health benefits. A review of several studies indicated some benefits of taking probiotics in reducing hay fever29.
There are many great benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy is one way to deliver them; not only does it help you feel relaxed and calm your mind, but it can alsohelp with your seasonal allergies32.
Essential oils from plants such as eucalyptus, rosemary, and oregano all have significant inflammatory factors33 making them excellent for treating respiratory problems such as asthma, COPD34, or coughing from allergies.
For best results, you might need to stick to this treatment for a while, at least a month35, as this can be a long-term condition. Also, you can use the essential oils from these plants with a humidifier or as a nasal spray if suitably prepared36.
In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture37 is used to treat conditions like allergy problems, including runny noses, itchy eyes, congested sinuses, and chronic pain. While some people might not think much of this kind of medication, it has a growing basis of scientific support38.
A 2018 research study found that acupuncture patients reported fewer sinus problems and an improvement in quality of life39, similar to a 2017 study that found acupuncture worked well as an additional treatment40
To discuss your allergy symptoms, make an appointment with a qualified acupuncturist, perhaps through a referral from your doctor
Spring allergies, like hay fever, can be annoying. Fortunately, there are medications you can take that relieve the symptoms. Unfortunately, allergy medicines occasionally have unpleasant side effects. However, there are various natural alternatives that you can use in place of them if you wish to avoid their adverse effects or additional prescriptions in general. Avoiding any known triggers is the simplest and safest strategy to help allergies.
Including extra fruits and vegetables in your diet could also be beneficial to increase the level of vitamins and minerals. There is also the option of taking supplements like quercetin and vitamin C. However, it's critical to be aware of any possible prescription interactions and dangers – before using any supplements, go to your doctor if you have any questions about what is safe for you.References