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An Overview of Seasonal Allergies Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Short term inflammation of the mucous membranes triggered by allergens is termed as an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions that are triggered only during specific period of year such as the late summer, spring season is termed as seasonal allergy. Majority of the people get affected with seasonal allergies. Though it is not a dangerous medical condition in majority of the cases the symptoms are quite uncomfortable. Negligence of seasonal allergies may sometime prove to be life threatening.

Causes for Seasonal Allergies

Allergic reactions are mainly triggered by pollen of the plants or spores of mold. Trees such as elm, olive, birch, ash, poplar, maple, oak and cypress are known to cause severe allergic reactions. Either the pollen or the spores enter the body and initiate the symptoms of allergy. Normal people do not show any symptoms but in sensitive people the immune system gets activated and liberates chemicals such as histamine so as to eliminate these foreign substances. Increased secretion of histamine results in local inflammation which generally shows up within 5 to 10 minutes of exposure to allergens.

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Seasonal Allergies Symptoms

Commonly observed symptoms of seasonal allergies include

  • Headache.
  • Itchy throat.
  • Runny nose.
  • Swollen sinuses.
  • Watery and itchy eyes.
  • Congestion due to increased mucous secretion.
  • Frequent sneezing to eliminate the mucus blocking the air passages.
  • Dry cough.
  • Disturbed sleep due to blockage of air passages.
  • Poor sense of smell and taste.
  • Dark circles and puffiness under the eyes.
  • Fatigue.

Who is at Risk of Seasonal Allergies?

People with highly reactive immune system are at increased risk of developing allergies.

The high risk group includes

  1. People below the age of 20.
  2. Those with family history of allergies.

Diagnosis of Seasonal Allergies

To give you efficient seasonal allergies treatment you doctor may initially perform few diagnostic tests to know the cause for symptoms.

Diagnosis of Seasonal Allergies Involves

  1. Observing the period of the year in which the symptoms of allergy have developed. If the symptoms start specifically in the months of April then flowers that bloom specially during that period are considered the culprits.
  2. Physical examination of the nasal passage using a strong light to identify physical or mechanical abnormalities. This will help to rule out polyps, tumors and perforated septum that generally cause symptoms similar to allergy. Clear nasal discharge and a swollen appearance at the back of the throat is an indication for allergic rhinitis.
  3. Your physician may ask several questions regarding the symptoms to find out the root cause for the symptoms.
  4. Skin tests to identify specific allergens responsible for the symptoms. This involves pricking the skin with a needle containing very little amount of allergen. If you develop a wheel and flare reaction at the site of pricking then that specific substance is considered as the triggering agent.
  5. Blood tests to know the amounts of eosinophils, a kind of white blood cells that generally increase at the time of allergies. Blood tests may also be done to know the concentration of specific variety of immunoglobulin the IgE that increases in cases of allergic reactions. This test is generally done to people who cannot undergo skin tests.

Precautions to Prevent Seasonal Allergies

      • Seasonal allergies can be escaped by staying indoors to the maximum possible extent. It is highly recommended to remain indoors during 5.am to 10.am during which the pollen dust will be in peak.
      • Use of glasses to prevent contact of eyes with allergens.
      • Use of air-conditioner at comfortable temperature will help to maintain allergen free indoors.
      • Taking allergy shots every month will prevent the symptoms to a great extent.
      • Do not mow the lawn as grass is a strong allergen.
      • Consider machine drying the laundry as pollen may stick to them when dried outside in sun.

Seasonal Allergies Treatment

Before starting treatment for seasonal allergies it is highly essential to rule out conditions such as sinus infections that generally mimic allergic reactions.

Seasonal allergies can be treated in the following ways

      • Over the counter drugs such as antihistamines can help to relieve the worst symptoms such as sneezing and itching. These anti-histamines block the cell receptors where the histamines bind and initiate the symptoms. Commonly available anti-histamines include Clemastine and diphenhydramine.
      • Use of decongestants to obtain relief from stuffy nose. Decongestants reduce the blood supply to the nasal passages so as to subside swelling. But, the person may suffer with side effects such as insomnia, difficulty to urinate and restlessness.
      • Corticosteroid nasal sprays to treat allergic rhinitis. For effective results they have to be used for a longer time but they also give relief from symptoms even after using for a short period.
      • Taking allergy shots to make immune system resistant to the allergens. The dosage of the allergen to be injected depends on the severity of the disease and is decided by your physician. For effective results this immunotherapy should be continued for a period of three to five years.
      • Herbs such as Nettle help to relieve allergy symptoms such as itching, sneezing and swelling. The compound Quercetin found in this herb helps to regulate the release of histamine. It is also safe to use.
      • Symptoms of mild allergic rhinitis can be relieved by washing the nasal passages. This can be done with saline solution that is available in drug stores. The solution can also be made at home by mixing a pinch of baking soda and half teaspoon salt in lukewarm water.

One has to be very cautious while on anti-histamines as they cause drowsiness. Hence, it is strongly recommended to not operate machines after using anti-histamines. Even if awake the psychomotor skills may not be perfect due to poor co-ordination. Pregnant and nursing women should speak to the allergy specialist before using any of the allergy medications as they are either harmful to the baby or pass through the breast milk to the baby. If you are using the allergy medications for children then be careful about the dosage as children need lesser dose than adults.

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