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.
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.
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.
Antihistamines from your local pharmacy can relieve sneezing, itching, a runny nose and watery eyes. A few of these medications include:
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.
The benefits of natural remedies for allergies are not yet clear, but some people who experience allergies have found relief from their symptoms in:
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.
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.