As much of the country waits impatiently for the sunshine and warm weather to arrive, many conveniently forget that higher temperatures also mean the onset of allergy season for much of the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans suffer from spring allergies.
One of the biggest triggers for spring allergens is pollen. Trees, grasses, and weeds release these tiny grains into the air. In those suffering from allergies, the immune system sees pollen as a threat and releases antibodies that attack the allergens. Then chemicals called histamines are released into the blood and trigger allergy symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing and itchy or watery eyes.
The following trees are major triggers:
- Box elder
Tree pollen season is usually worst from late February through May, then grass season takes over and continues until July, and the late summer/ early fall brings about mold spores and ragweed which carry on until November.
Areas that don’t experience frosts find that those “spring allergens” persist longer. And climate change has affected pollen seasons and exacerbated and extended allergy seasons around the world.
While it’s nearly impossible to prevent allergies, there are methods to manage them and reduce symptoms. Many over-the-counter options such as anti-histamines block your body’s reaction to the trigger, fighting congestion, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes.
Some extreme cases require an allergist’s expertise and perhaps a stronger intervention such as immunotherapy—commonly known as allergy shots—to desensitize your body to the allergens affecting your health.
How do you know when should you see a specialist?
You should see an allergist if:
- Your allergies are cause chronic sinus infections, extreme nasal congestion or difficulty breathing.
- You experience hay fever or other allergy symptoms several months out of the year—not just peak allergy season.
- Antihistamines and over-the-counter medications do not alleviate allergy symptoms OR cause disruptive side effects, such as drowsiness.
- You are frequently short of breath or feel tightness in your chest.
- You have previously been diagnosed with asthma, and/or you have frequent asthma attacks not controlled by asthma medication.
- Asthma or allergy symptoms are interfering with your ability to carry on day-to-day activities.
- Asthma or allergy symptoms decrease the quality of your life
- You sometimes have to struggle to catch your breath.
- You often wheeze or cough, especially at night or after exercise.