Flowers are blooming, or lawns or trees are bursting with new greenery, and like clockwork, your eyes water, your nose runs, and the sneezes keep coming. You wish you could enjoy the nice weather, but you end up miserable whenever you head outside.
You think it might be a cold, but there’s a pattern. Every year, you have the same symptoms when spring is in the air. You probably have seasonal allergies, which are sometimes called hay fever.
Spring is beautiful, but it’s also a key time of year for seasonal allergies. As plants release pollen, millions of people with hay fever start to sniffle and sneeze. There’s no cure but you can take steps to curb springtime allergies, from medication to household habits.
You can’t get more natural than plants. Humans have been around them for our entire evolutionary history. So why are roughly 20 percent of Americans allergic to pollen, as if this plant sperm powder were some sort of toxic foreign substance?
The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen. Trees, grasses, and weeds release these tiny grains into the air to fertilize other plants. When they get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the body’s defenses haywire. The immune system mistakenly sees the pollen as a danger and releases antibodies that attack the allergens. That leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood. Histamines trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes, and other symptoms that are all too familiar if you have allergies.
Pollen can travel for miles, so it’s not just about the plants in your neighborhood.
Triggers include trees, grasses and weeds.
Pollen counts tend to be particularly high on breezy days when the wind picks up these sneeze-inducing grains and carries them through the air. Rainy days, on the other hand, wash away the allergens.
Symptoms you may have are:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Dark circles under the eyes
Start with your regular doctor. She may refer you to an allergist for tests. The allergy specialist may give you a skin test, which involves either a pricking the surface of the skin with a tiny amount of allergen (prick test), or injecting a tiny sample of a diluted allergen under the skin of your arm or back. If you’re allergic to the substance, a small red bump (called a wheal or hive) will form. Sometimes, you may get a blood test.