As the weather warms and the days lengthen, many are eager to get outdoors and enjoy the sun and spring blooms. However, if you’re one of more than 60 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, you may feel less excited. Pollen and allergy triggers are everywhere.
Seasonal allergies can be a true misery, causing symptoms such as coughing, runny or stuffy nose, and itchy, watery eyes. In severe cases, the reaction can even trigger an asthma attack.
What prompts this aggressive immune response each spring?
As trees, and other seed-bearing plants, come back to life, they produce pollen as part of their reproductive process. The plants release high levels of pollen spores into the air that can be carried by the wind for miles. Pollen in itself is a harmless substance, but if you have seasonal allergies, your body mistakes the pollen for something dangerous and releases histamines to fight off the perceived threat. It’s this histamine response that causes your itchy, awful symptoms.
How can I identify my allergy triggers?
A medical professional can help diagnose your seasonal allergies based on when symptoms develop. In general:
- Trees pollinate in the spring.
- Grasses release pollen in late spring and summer.
- Ragweed produces pollen in the fall.
- Mold spores can cause seasonal allergies during the spring, summer, and fall.
The timing and severity of allergy season will vary depending on your location, but certain conditions can worsen symptoms. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology notes the following factors:
- Tree, grass and ragweed pollens thrive during cool nights and warm days.
- Molds grow quickly in heat and high humidity.
- Tree and grass pollen levels typically peak in the evening.
- Ragweed pollen levels are highest in the morning.
- Rainfall can wash pollen away, but pollen counts rise afterwards.
- Pollen counts surge on warm, windy days.
Knowing your allergy triggers and minimizing your exposure is a good first step to treating seasonal allergies. Over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl and Claritin can also help block the body’s histamine-producing response and reduce symptoms.