Seasonal Allergies

Hay Fever.  Allergic rhinitis.  Summer Allergies.  Spring Allergies.  You’ve heard of seasonal allergies by a number of different names, but seasonal allergies all boil down to the same thing:  sniffling, sneezing, and potentially overall sinus misery, though there’s some other possibilities too.  And guess what?  Here in Kansas, it’s that time again for Spring and Summer allergy season…

What Are Allergies?

That sniffling, sneezing, coughing, puffy eyed feeling you get over and over during the year, when you definitely know you don’t have a cold?  That’s an allergic reaction.  Allergic reactions are the body’s defenses trying to get rid of a foreign substance it doesn’t like.  In the process, it latches on to the foreign substance – let’s say a mold spore as an example – with a protein called IgE.  From there, the body releases histamine and a couple of other chemicals into the bloodstream, giving the body the signal that it’s time to get rid of those mold spores.  And, the body reacts to all of that with symptoms such as:

  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Runny Nose
  • Coughing

And possibly a skin reaction such as hives.

Now, that’s the easy part of allergies.  There are allergic reactions that are much worse.  For instance, with some food allergies or insect sting allergies, people can go into anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal if not treated quickly.  And by quickly, I mean almost instantly:  an epi pen is carried by some sufferers, and used to deliver adrenaline within moments of the beginning of an allergic reaction.

Fortunately, seasonal allergies aren’t that extreme.  But, they can be somewhat debilitating depending on how bad your symptoms are.

Why Are Some Seasonal?

As the seasons change, so does what’s in the air.  For instance, closed up houses during the hottest and coldest parts of the year means you’ll deal with less potential allergens from the outside world, but you’ll have to deal with more potential allergens from within your house as they get trapped inside.  Additionally, some allergens are based on the bloom cycle of plants.  Here’s a quick guide to some of the allergens that are common during each season:

Winter Allergens

During the winter months, you kick on the furnace for the first time, and everything that’s been in the HVAC system gets thrown into the air for the first time in months.  Add to that the fact the house is usually sealed up to keep the cold air out, and suddenly you’ve got a perfect storm of allergens floating around, trapped in your living space with you.

Dust Mites:  Dust mites are microscopic insects that lie in the air, and thrive in humid environments.  They reach their peak during the summer months for most parts of the US.

Mold:  During the winter months, mold can still grow in high-humidity areas.

Spring Allergens

Pollen is one of the most common spring allergens, since it’s the time of year for plants to begin their reproductive cycle.  Usually you’ll see the largest upswing of allergy symptoms on breezy days, where the wind picks up the pollen from blooming plants and can carry it for miles.

Trees:  New tree growth and blooming for trees such as cottonwood, mulberry, oak, pine, sycamore, and others

Grass and weeds:  Bermuda, Fescue, Johnson, and most of other popular grasses for lawns are all popular sources for pollen in the spring months.

Summer Allergens

Man-Made Air Pollution:  Depending on what area of the country you live in, smog may be an issue.  During the summer months sunlight beats down, and chemicals released by car exhaust gets more reactive, producing smog.  For some, this is just part of the standard allergy cycle, though there are those who have to deal with asthma attacks brought on my smog.

Insects:  While not part of the typical sneezing and sniffling part of allergies, it can be part of the more extreme form of allergies.

Trees & Grass:  while mentioned in the Spring Allergens section, it still applies in summer.  However, this time you get a different cocktail of trees, grass, and weeds to deal with.

Dust Mites:  Dust mites are microscopic insects that lie in the air, and thrive in humid environments.  They reach their peak during the summer months for most parts of the US.

Fall Allergens

Mold:  The temperature drops, and the ground remains damp longer, giving mold a chance to really flourish.  You’ll notice the highest peak of allergies – if you’re allergic to mold – a day or two after it’s been wet outside, particularly if the breeze picks up.

Ragweed:  From August until November, Ragweed is one of the most common forms of allergen.

Dealing With Seasonal Allergies

So, what do you do?  Your first stop may be talking to your medical professional.  There’s not actually a one-size fits all solution to the problem, since there’s so many possibilities for the source of your allergies.  Antihistamines may help reduce symptoms, but if your allergies are bad enough, a test can help narrow down what substances you’re most allergic to, which then allows you to have a better plan of attack.

This article is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice.  Healthcare is an individualized process, and reading an article online should not be your source for healthcare advice - instead, it's intended to help you better understand the process or healthcare, inform about a specific disease, or present the potential for lifestyle changes that may occur with a disease or disorder.  Do no rely on online articles for healthcare - instead, consult your healthcare provider if you feel you may be suffering from symptoms presented in this article, or other symptoms not listed here.

Header image by William Brawley, via Flickr.

Davis Sickmon is a writer, sometimes college instructor, entrepreneur, and IT professional. More information about Davis can be found at his personal website.

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