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You’re sneezing and coughing. Your eyes are watery, red and itchy. Then there’s that runny, stuffy nose. Maybe you remember having the same miserable symptoms last year when the seasons changed.
If you sneeze and sniffle regardless of whether you’re sick, you could be one of the 50 million Americans with allergies.
Seasonal allergies occur when your immune system incorrectly identifies foreign substances like pollen, grass or mold as harmful and produces antibodies to try to fight off these substances. This immune response can cause your skin, sinuses, and respiratory and digestive systems to become inflamed—which leads to watery eyes, a runny nose, and a scratchy throat, among other symptoms.
Seasonal allergies refer to symptoms that are experienced only during certain times of the year.
“The most common seasonal allergy triggers are grass, pollen and mold,” says Pam Kraft, certified nurse practitioner with Kettering Health. “Fall triggers include ragweed and mold.”
“Anyone can get allergies at any time,” says Kraft. “However, if one or both of your parents suffer from allergies, you have a much greater chance of suffering from them as well.”
“One common misconception is that someone is born with allergies,” says Jolinda Caswell, MD, primary care physician with Kettering Health. “However, many people actually develop seasonal allergies as they get older. A minority of people can grow out of their allergy symptoms, but symptoms are correlated to the allergen count, and it’s more likely that their symptoms have subsided or lessened because the allergen count is lower.”
Control your triggers
There are steps you can take to minimize your seasonal allergy symptoms.
- Keep windows and doors closed. Tempting as it might be to open the windows and enjoy the fresh air, that breeze can carry allergens into your home. Keep windows and doors closed to limit your exposure.
- Do some cleaning. If dust is a trigger, try dusting, vacuuming and regularly washing your bedding to cut down on the number of dust mites in your home.
- Keep a diary. Write down when you experience symptoms and what you were doing before or during that time. This can help you identify your triggers so you can avoid these allergens in the future.
If seasonal allergy symptoms are interfering with your daily life, see your primary care provider to discuss treatment options.
“If your symptoms are mild, avoid your triggers as much as possible and try saline rinses,” Kraft advises.
“Most of the time, your primary care provider can provide symptomatic relief to help you get through the season,” says Dr. Caswell. “However, if your symptoms are persistent and severe, allergy testing may be in order.”