What is seasonal allergies?

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies: Overview

Allergies occur when your body's defense system (immune system) overreacts to certain substances. The immune system treats a harmless substance as if it were a harmful germ or virus. Many things can cause this to happen.

Your allergies are seasonal if you have symptoms just at certain times of the year. In that case, you are probably allergic to pollens from certain trees, grasses, or weeds.

Allergies can be mild or severe. Over-the-counter allergy medicines, such as nasal sprays, eye drops, or pills, may help with some symptoms. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

Your doctor may suggest that you have tests to help find the cause of your allergies. When you know what things trigger your symptoms, you can avoid them. This can prevent allergy symptoms and other health problems.

In some cases, immunotherapy might help. For this treatment, you get shots or use pills that have a small amount of certain allergens in them. Your body "gets used to" the allergen, so you react less to it over time. This kind of treatment may help prevent or reduce some allergy symptoms.

Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)

Allergic rhinitis means allergies or hay fever. When you are exposed to particles in the air that you're allergic to, like pollen, dust, or cat dander, your immune system attacks the particles and causes symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose.

You may have symptoms often during the year, or just at certain times.

What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Symptoms of seasonal allergies include:

  • Itchy, watery eyes.
  • Sneezing.
  • Runny, stuffy, or itchy nose.
  • Headache and fatigue.
  • Dark circles under the eyes ("allergic shiners").
  • Drainage from the nose down the back of the throat (postnasal drip).
  • Coughing or the need to clear the throat of drainage.

Seasonal allergies occur at the same time of the year every year if you continue to live in the same part of the country.

How can you prevent seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies are often caused by being exposed to pollen. When you can, reduce your exposure by:

  • Keeping your house and car windows closed. Use an air conditioner to help filter out allergens.
  • Limiting the time you spend outside when pollen counts are high. Your local weather may report pollen counts. They are also available online.
  • Limiting your mowing tasks. Wear a pollen mask or dust mask if you need to mow the lawn.
  • Rinsing your eyes with cool water or saline eyedrops to remove clinging pollen after you come indoors. You can also use saline (saltwater) nasal washes. This can help keep your nasal passages open and wash out mucus and allergens.
  • Taking a shower and changing your clothes after you work or play outside.

How are seasonal allergies diagnosed?

Your doctor may be able to diagnose seasonal allergies based on your symptoms and health history. They may do a physical exam. Sometimes a skin test is done to confirm specific allergens.

How can you care for yourself when you have seasonal allergies?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Stay inside when pollen counts are high, if you can. Your local weather may report pollen counts. They are also available online.
  • During your allergy season, keep windows closed. If possible, use air-conditioning to filter allergens out. Change or clean all filters regularly.
  • Take a shower and change your clothes after you have been outside.

What are seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to substances such as tree, weed, or grass pollen. You may only have symptoms at certain times of the year. Symptoms can be mild or severe.

Seasonal allergies: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms.
  • Your symptoms are interfering with your daily activities, sleep, school, or work.
  • You have questions about medicines or allergy testing.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.