Pollen and Your Immunity: What Causes Seasonal Allergies and Tips to Reduce the Symptoms
Spring has officially sprung. Dr. Ashokkumar Patel knows this without having to check his calendar. Each year, when the weather reaches a steady 60 degrees, and the outdoors become “painted yellow,” patients begin to visit him with complaints of seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies are commonly caused by the allergen, pollen, which trees and plants release into the air, starting around every March or April, and lasting until the fall. Other allergens that may have a more prominent impact this time of year include dust mites, mold spores, and animal dander.
“An allergen is any substance that our immune system decides is foreign and harmful to the body,” said Dr. Patel, of Runnemede Primary Care. “When these allergens enter our noses and throats, it causes the membrane linings to swell, and respiratory issues to occur.”
Some allergies, such as with food, will worsen due to a weakened immune system. However, in the case of seasonal allergies, a strong immune system will work incredibly hard to fight off the allergens that pose a threat, which actually causes the intense reaction.
“The symptoms that I typically see in patients with seasonal allergies include a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, and an itchy throat,” said Dr. Patel.
It’s easy to mistake these symptoms with those of a common cold, however, there are some key differences. A cold may cause body aches and fever, which are rarely associated with seasonal allergies.
“Seasonal allergies are typically treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine. Additional treatment options include eye drops, decongestant, and steroid nasal spray,” said Dr. Patel. “If symptoms don’t subside with these treatments, it’s important to see an allergist. They can run extensive tests to determine what other allergens might be affecting your body.”
To help reduce exposure to potential seasonal allergens, Dr. Patel offers the following tips:
- Keep your body and clothes clean. It’s important to shower every day to rinse off any allergens that may be on your body. Try not to wear the same clothes multiple days in a row, and avoid hanging clothes outside to dry.
- Keep your windows shut and stay inside. If your seasonal allergies are severe, and the pollen count is high, it’s smart to stay where the air is clean.
- If you have pets, vacuum regularly. Your furry friends release more dander and hair than you expect, so be sure to clean up after them.
- Take your medication. If you take an antihistamine, make sure you take it consistently for it to work properly.
Seasonal allergies can put quite the damper on your day, especially if you plan to head outdoors. When the pollen count is low, however, following these simple tips can help you forget pollen even exists. If these tips and treatment methods are ineffective, and you notice an increased difficulty breathing, make an appointment with your primary care doctor, as you could have asthma.