Spring is here, and many of us look forward to seeing flowers and trees in bloom, more daylight hours, and warmer temperatures. While the season brings new life, regrowth, and a sense of new possibilities, for more than 1 in 4 adults and nearly 1 in 5 children — it is the return of seasonal allergy symptoms.
Allergies occur when the body reacts to allergens, such as pollen. Pollen is the grains or tiny seeds of flowering plants, trees, and grasses. The immune system reacts to these allergens as a threat, resulting in multiple allergic symptoms, commonly known as "hay fever." The most common symptoms of hay fever include sneezing, scratchy throat, watery/swollen/red/itchy eyes, stuffy nose/nasal congestion, plugged up feeling in the ears, and headache. Many people with seasonal allergies also have asthma. In addition to these symptoms, they may experience shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. Pollen exposure can also cause asthma attacks in people who have asthma and for whom pollen is an asthma trigger.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, here are some useful tips to help manage your symptoms:
- Check the air quality and pollen count each day. Limit outdoor activities between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen counts are at its peak.
- Wear gloves, wraparound glasses, and a filtered face mask when working outdoors to help keep particles off your hands and out of your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Don’t touch your eyes while you are outside and wash your hands immediately when you go back inside.
- Shower immediately after being outside to wash pollen off your skin, hair, and eyelashes. Rinse out your nose with a saline spray to rinse the nasal passage of allergens.
- Change your clothes after being outdoors.
- Brush your pets if they have been outside to prevent allergens from coming inside your home with them.
- Keep the windows closed in your home and when driving.
- Take any medications as recommended by your health care provider.
As with any health issue, consult with your doctor or an allergist for the most appropriate treatment plan. For additional resources and information about allergens and pollen, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pollen and Your Health webpage.