Seasonal allergies, sometimes called “hay fever” or seasonal allergic rhinitis, are allergy symptoms that happen during certain times of the year, usually when outdoor molds release their spores, and trees, grasses and weeds release tiny pollen particles into the air to fertilize other plants.
The immune systems of people who are allergic to mold spores or pollen treat these particles (called allergens) as invaders and release chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream to defend against them. It’s the release of these chemicals that causes allergy symptoms.
People can be allergic to one or more types of pollen or mold. The type someone is allergic to determines when symptoms appear. So depending on the area you live and the season you are in will predict what symptoms you have at that time. Even kids who have never had seasonal allergies in years past can develop them. Seasonal allergies can start at almost any age, though they usually develop by the time someone is 10 years old and reach their peak in the early 20s, with symptoms often disappearing later in adulthood.
If your child develops a “cold” at the same time every year, seasonal allergies might be to blame. Allergy symptoms, which usually come on suddenly and last as long as a person is exposed to the allergen, can include:
– itchy nose and /or throat
– nasal congestion
– clear, runny nose
These symptoms often come with itchy, watery and /or red eyes, which is called allergic conjunctivitis. Kids who have wheezing and shortness of breath in addition to these symptoms might have allergies that trigger asthma.
Seasonal allergies are fairly easy to identify because the pattern of symptoms returns from year to year following exposure to allergens. Talk with your doctor if you think your child might have allergies. The doctor will ask about symptoms and when they appear and, based on the answers and a physical exam, should be able to make a diagnosis. If not the doctor may refer you to an allergist for blood tests or allergy skin test.
There are many ways to treat seasonal allergies, depending on how severe the symptoms are. The most important part of treatment is knowing what allergens are at work. Some kids can get relief by reducing or eliminating exposure to allergens that bother them.
To reduce your exposure to the things that trigger your allergy signs and symptoms:
– Stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clean pollen from the air.
– Delegate lawn mowing, weed pulling and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.
– Remove clothes you’ve worn outside and shower to rinse the pollen from your skin and hair.
– Don’t hang laundry outside – pollen can stick to clothing, sheets and towels.
– Wear a pollen mask if doing chores outside.
Since seasonal allergies flare up when there’s a lot of pollen in the air, these steps can help you reduce your exposure:
– Check your local TV or radio station, your local newspaper or the Internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels in your area.
– If high pollen counts are forecasted, start taking allergy medications before your symptoms appear.
– Close doors and windows at night or any other time when pollen counts are high.
– Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
There’s no miracle product that can eliminate all allergens from the air in your hone, but these suggestions may help:
– Use air conditioning in your house and car.
– If you have forced air heating or air conditioning in your house, use high-efficiency filters ad follow regular maintenance schedules.
– Keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier.
– Use a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom.
– Clean floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter.
Several types of nonprescription medications can help ease allergy symptoms. They include: oral antihistamines, decongestants, nasal spry and combination medications. Your doctor will help you decide which ones are best for you.
If nothing seems to help, one may need allergy shots that an allergist can help you with. This is known as desensitization and this treatment involves regular injections containing tiny amounts of the substances that cause your allergies. Over time these injections reduce the immune system reaction that causes symptoms.
Information in this article is from the Mayo Clinic and Parents magazine.