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‘Tis the Season to Fend Off Seasonal Allergies


The California “winter” is coming to an end and spring has officially sprung. The transition brings a burst of greenery, but unfortunately, that comes with the increased potential for seasonal allergies. Before you head outside, ensure you’re protected from pollen-triggered allergic reactions.

What are seasonal allergies?

Allergy symptoms occur when our immune systems mistakenly react to an external trigger as if it is a threat. People with seasonal allergies, also called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, have this adverse reaction to pollen. Flowering trees, plants and weeds release pollen grains into the air at higher rates during spring when the weather warms up, and when these particles are caught in our nasal passages, on our skin, or in our eyes and mouth, our bodies may react with respiratory symptoms.

Common symptoms include sneezing, coughing, a runny or stuffy nose and itching in the eyes, nose, mouth and throat. In more severe cases, allergies can also trigger asthma. If you experience seasonal allergies with increased pollen counts, you’re not alone–over 50 million Americans report allergy symptoms each year.

Preventative measures

Pollen and other allergens seem to find their way everywhere as the seasons change–it’s on our cars, all over our sidewalks and even in our homes. A few proactive (and creative) measures can prevent pollen infiltration and allergic reactions.

  • Avoid high pollen counts. Connect with technology to stay ahead of potential pollen spikes. Check pollen counts on your local TV or radio station, newspaper or smartphone weather app, and keep clear of outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest. The National Allergy Bureau tracks pollen and mold counts here, and may have a tracking station near your area. also offers Allergy Alert, a free app for iPhone and Android users, as well as an email list that tracks potential allergens in your area and notifies subscribers in the event of a spike.
  • Wear a mask. The same mask you wear to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 blocks many allergens like pollen from entering your respiratory tract. Wearing a mask outside or in other areas where you experience allergies can lessen the severity of your symptoms.
  • Keep indoor air clean. Favorable weather may be tempting, but keep in mind pollen and other allergens can enter an open window in your home or car. Use air conditioning instead, and install high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in your bedroom if possible. You can purchase a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter as well. Following regular maintenance and replacement schedules with these filters will keep them operating at their cleanest capacity. If your home feels damp, you can also use a dehumidifier to keep mold and other allergy-causing irritants at bay.
  • Spring cleaning. Deep cleaning your home can remove allergens from living spaces. Vacuum or mop floors, ensuring to move furniture and sanitizing those hard-to-reach spots. Replace and wash bedding regularly with hot water to prevent dust mites and other dirt and skin cell buildup, and use fragrance-free cleaning products if others irritate your nasal passages. Designate deep-cleaning duties and lawn care to roommates or family members without allergies. If you have children, don’t forget to wash their blankets and stuffed animals!
  • Clean up after your pets. Even hypoallergenic pets aren’t 100% allergen-free—even if they don’t shed, your pet’s skin can still irritate your skin and nose. Wash and brush your pet regularly, especially if they’ve been outside. Pollen and other airborne particles can cling to their fur.
  • De-stress. Stress can actually intensify allergies. Higher hormone levels can make noses run and eyes itch. Estrogen in particular, heightened during menstruation, has the potential to worsen your allergic reactions. Prevent heightened anxiety by taking time for regular mindfulness or exercise. Regardless of your pollen sensitivity, if you think your anxiety may be severe, consider starting therapy.

Caring for allergies at home

  • Use a squeeze bottle or neti pot, which has a spout designed for rinsing, to flush your nasal passages with saline solution and remove mucus and allergens from your nose. Use water that’s distilled, sterile or previously boiled and cooled to make up the saline solution, and ensure you use a medically-reviewed recipe like the one found here. To clean your bottle or pot, rinse it with the distilled or sterile water and leave it open to air-dry.

Over-the-counter medications

Antihistamines from your local pharmacy can relieve sneezing, itching, a runny nose and watery eyes. A few of these medications include: 

  • Loratadine (Claritin, Alavert)
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy)
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy)

Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Afrinol) can provide relief from nasal stuffiness. Nasal sprays like oxymetazoline (Afrin) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine) work by narrowing the blood vessels in the nose, reducing swelling and congestion. Only use these sprays a few days in a row—longer-term use can actually worsen symptoms in a phenomenon called rebound congestion.

Steroid nasal sprays like Flonase, Nasacort and Rhinocort can reduce inflammation, making it more difficult for allergens to reach nasal receptors that trigger allergic reactions.

Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can ease allergy symptoms and doesn’t have serious side effects, but it’s more effective when used before your symptoms start.

Natural remedies

The benefits of natural remedies for allergies are not yet clear, but some people who experience allergies have found relief from their symptoms in:

  • Butterbur extract
  • Spirulina
  • Acupuncture with a licensed practitioner

In some cases, these herbs can cause adverse reactions in those with allergies to related plants. Ask your doctor what natural remedies may work for you.

Seeing a doctor

A doctor can provide a more in-depth look at persistent symptoms or provide additional testing if over-the-counter medications and home-based solutions aren’t enough to lessen your allergies. If you feel that your allergies may be triggering asthma attacks, for instance, see your doctor as soon as possible. Skin and blood tests performed in a doctor’s office can help determine what treatment steps you should take and how to avoid potential triggers. Allergy shots may assist sufferers of more severe allergies. Over time, regular injection of small amounts of the substances that cause allergies can reduce the immune system reaction that causes your symptoms.

With so many respiratory illnesses making the rounds this winter and spring, from the common cold to the flu and COVID-19, it’s important to keep track of your symptoms and err on the side of caution. Many colds are mistaken for allergies and can lead to worsened symptoms or even infecting others. Hand-washing and social distancing help you and your loved ones stay safe no matter the cause.

To learn more, visit Riverside Medical Clinic’s allergies page, and if you have any concerns about your own seasonal allergies, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Riverside Medical Clinic