According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the past 12 months 19.2 million adults have been diagnosed with seasonal allergies, commonly referred to as hay fever, and 5.2 million children have reported having them. So what exactly causes seasonal allergies?
“Your immune system essentially mistakes things like tree pollen and dander for harmful substances, overreacts and starts fighting them off with antibodies. This produces symptoms of an allergic reaction,” explains Dr. Edmund Fernandez, a family medicine physician at the Aurora Health Center in Slinger.
According to Dr. Fernandez, common symptoms of allergies include:
- Sinus congestion
- Runny nose
- Itchy or water eyes
Dr. Fernandez warns that it can be easy to confuse allergies with a common cold since the symptoms are often similar. In order to determine whether you have a cold or allergies, Dr. Fernandez advises you consider the time of year. Allergies ramp up in spring, summer and fall, while colds are more common in winter. Check your temperature, he adds. A fever sometimes comes with a cold but is never a symptom of allergies. On the other hand, itchy eyes, nose, ears and throat often come with allergies, but not a cold. Lastly, consider the length of your symptoms. Colds typically last three to 10 days, while allergies can stick around for weeks or even the entire season.
And if you’re wondering about the differences between allergy symptoms and COVID-19, you can read more here.
If you suffer from allergies, consider these tips for managing them so that you can fully enjoy the season:
- Monitor your local pollen counts and limit your time outdoors when the counts are high. It’s also a good idea to keep your windows closed if you can in order to limit the amount of pollen getting inside your home.
- If you spend time outdoors, take a shower when you get inside and wash the clothing you were wearing.
- Take part in spring cleaning. After a long winter, your home can be filled with indoor allergens like mold, dust and dander.
- Use an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters are also available for some vacuum cleaners, furnaces and air conditioners.
- If you experienced allergies last spring, don’t wait to start fighting them this year. Start taking your usual allergy medication before pollen season begins and continue taking it consistently through the season.
- Schedule an appointment with an allergist or your primary care provider. He or she can recommend various antihistamines, decongestants and other treatment options to help relieve your symptoms.