6 Common Questions About Seasonal Allergies

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What causes seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies are most commonly triggered by grass, pollen and mold, because many people are allergic to the pollen and spores released by plants such as grass and mold when they are blooming. When large amounts of pollen and spores are released into the air, people breathe them in while they spend time outside. When these allergens enter the body, the immune system tries to fight them off by starting an allergic reaction. These allergic reactions cause symptoms that include sneezing, coughing or congestion.

When exactly is allergy season?

Allergy season generally starts in February and continues through early summer. The timing of allergy season may differ slightly each year, due varying weather conditions causing plants to bloom at an earlier or later time. Similarly, the severity of your allergies can differ from year to year depending on weather conditions and length of seasons. For example, a hot, dry summer can lead to a mild allergy season because it will bring about fewer flower buds.

Why are allergies worse in some regions than others?

Some people may find that their allergies become worse when they are in certain regions. This can occur if an individual is allergic to a certain type of plant that is found in that region. For example, many people are allergic to a plant called ragweed, which is most abundant on the East Coast and in Midwestern states. Someone with an allergy to ragweed may find their allergies are particularly aggravated when they are in New York, but less aggravated in California.

In addition to the variation of plants by region, varying climates can have an impact on the severity of allergy symptoms. Typically, mountainous regions have lower pollen counts due to drier air and the presence of fewer grassy plains for pollen to spread from. Coastal regions see lower pollen counts because high winds blow pollen away. Areas with more humid climates, like the southeast, see higher pollen counts due to less wind and wetter air.

How do I know if it’s allergies or a cold?

Allergies will never cause symptoms of a fever or body aches. Experiencing either of those symptoms indicates you are suffering from a cold or other infection. Other symptoms are similar between the two, such as sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, and coughing.

How can I avoid allergy triggers?

Avoiding allergy triggers can be difficult. If you are allergic to pollen or mold, there are reports of their counts each day along with the weather reports during allergy season. By checking these counts, you can decide if outdoor activities will be appropriate for you that day. Often, pollen counts are the highest in the afternoon, so avoiding outdoor activities at certain times may be beneficial as well.

What can an allergist do for me that’s different than over the counter medication?

There are over the counter medications available to help control allergies that can often successfully reduce symptoms without the help of an allergist. But, allergies can gradually worsen over time, leading individuals to seek professional help even if they have had success with over the counter medication in the past.

You should consider seeing an allergist if your allergies are causing difficulty breathing, chronic nasal congestion, or other symptoms for several months of the year. Additionally, an allergist may be useful if your allergy symptoms are interfering with your daily life, or if over the counter medications are causing side effects that interfere with your daily life. An allergist will be able to identify which types of grass, pollen, mold, or other substances you are allergic to, which may better help you avoid those triggers in the future.

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