Seasonal allergies are a common nuisance to people who live in areas where the climate changes with the seasons—which is most of the United States. Allergies can impact your ability to go outside and spend time with your family and complete daily tasks. Let’s talk about what these allergies are, what causes them, and how you can get rid of them.
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies, also called hay fever, are allergies to pollen from various plants that occur mainly when the seasons begin to change. The biggest allergy season is, of course, when spring starts—all those plants reawakening and beginning to bloom means that there’s a lot of pollen in the air. However, pollen from different plants is also released in the transition from summer to fall.
People who get allergies commonly report experiencing a runny and/or stuffy nose, watery eyes, clogged sinuses, headache, and sneezing. “Allergies” is a sort of catch-all term for the aggravation people feel during seasons when there’s an increased amount of pollen in the air. This aggravation is a form of an allergic reaction. According to MedlinePlus, a publication of the National Institute of Health, allergic reactions occur when the body wrongly defends itself against something that is not dangerous. So, we get allergies when pollen, which is non-threatening, enters our body and triggers our immune system’s defense mechanisms.
What are common triggers?
Common triggers of allergies are pollen-bearing plants, like grass, some kinds of trees, and different species of brush, weeds, and flowers. Ragweed, the plant that triggers fall allergies, grows in the wild almost everywhere, but it is especially common in the US east coast and Midwest regions.
Dust & mold
While seasonal allergies are initially triggered specifically by pollen, other things can aggravate allergy symptoms. These things include dust, mold, sawdust, and ash. Basically, if it’s small enough to be inhaled through your nose or mouth, it’s a potential aggravate.
Know the factors
It’s important to know the different factors that influence seasonal allergies. Things like regional climate and time of day can influence the pollen count and, consequently, how bad your allergies are. Here are some things that the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology says to be aware of as climate factors:
- Tree, grass, and ragweed pollens thrive during cool nights and warm days.
- This is one of the reasons why seasonal allergies tend to flare up during the spring and fall, when the days are warm, but the nights are cool.
- Mold grows quickly in heat and high humidity.
- Be aware of places in your home where mold could grow (or might already be growing). Common places include bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens (especially around dishwashers and under sinks).
- Pollen levels tend to peak in the morning hours.
- If you have particularly bad allergies, you might want to stay inside during the morning hours. Or, if you must go outside, consider wearing a simple mouth and nose mask, which will block all particulates and pollen.
- Rain washes pollen away, but pollen counts can soar after rainfall.
- On a day with no wind, airborne allergens are grounded.
- When the day is windy and warm, pollen counts surge.
- Pollen loves wind and warmth. Be aware of the potential allergen threats on these days and plan & prepare accordingly.
- Moving to another climate to avoid allergies is usually not successful—allergens are virtually everywhere.
- After a few weeks of springtime allergies, we all want to pack up and move. But this won’t solve the problem entirely. Instead, invest time into finding an allergy medication that really works for you.
How can I kick my seasonal allergies?
There are a few things you can do to help kick your seasonal allergies. Here are some ideas, tricks, and techniques you can try:
- Find an allergy medication that works for you. This is one of the most effective allergy treatments out there. There are lots of different allergy medications, so talk to your doctor and find a plan that works for you. Try out multiple medications to see what works best for you and your lifestyle.
- Stay indoors as much as possible between 5:00 and 10:00 in the morning.
- Save outdoor activities for late afternoon or right after a heavy rain, when pollen counts are lower.
- Ditch the outdoor breeze. It might feel nice to have a window open during the April or September breeze, but it’s a sure-fire way to introduce pollen to your home. Keep your home and car windows and doors closed as much as you can.
- Use a clothes dryer instead of an outdoor line.
- Check your filters. Both your home and your car use filters to keep the air clean. Get your air filters replaced if they’re old or damaged in anyway.
- Use a dehumidifier in your home. Keeping humidity levels below 50% prevents mold growth.
- Be aware of places in your home where mold could grow (basements, bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, etc.). Clean these areas thoroughly with mold-killing cleaners.
- Wear a mask outside, especially when doing yardwork. It might look silly or a bit over-the-top, but a mask keeps everything out—pollen, dust, mold spores, everything. So, even though you might feel a bit different with a mask on, it will help your allergies. It is recommended that you choose a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask for best results.
- Monitor pollen and mold counts in your area. These are usually included in local weather reports.
- Take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes after you’ve been outside.
- Keep up with your home cleaning. Vacuum and dust weekly, wearing a mask, if necessary. Wash your bedding in hot water weekly. Use plastic covers for carpets and upholstered furniture; the plastic coverings keep particulates from settling (and later escaping) and make cleaning a breeze.
You can also try these home remedies:
- Neti pots. Some people on the internet, especially in the blog-o-sphere, swear by neti pots. Neti pots look a bit like small teapots and they’re used to help pour a saltwater solution into one nostril, clearing out stuffed sinuses. See this article on allergy home remedies to learn more about neti pots.
- Saline spray. Saline spray is another sinus-clearing solution, and some people find it easier to use than neti pots.
- Herbs and supplements. Some herbs and supplements, like spirulina, eyebright, goldenseal, and the plant extract butterbur, have been studied for their allergy-relieving properties. Butterbur has shown the strongest positive results. You can also increase your intake of the enzyme bromelain, found commonly in pineapple, that can help curb inflammation in the sinuses and may offer some congestion relief.
Note: home remedies, while they may work for some people, are not clinically tested or medically proven. We provide these remedies simply as ideas for you to look into. We do not recommend these remedies above seeing a doctor or using tested medical treatments. Take these ideas with a grain of salt—they might not work, and that’s ok! They’re home remedies, not a guaranteed allergy cure.
We hope this article has given you a better grip on understanding your allergies and knowing how you can handle them. Remember, don’t be discouraged by stubborn allergies. You might have to try a combination of solutions to find what works for you.
What have you done that helps you kick your allergies? Have you found that one medication is particularly effective (or ineffective)? Tell us about it in the comments section! We love learning from our SkyBlue community members. If you have a story or idea that is especially compelling, helpful, or just plain funny, it could be featured in a future SkyBlue article!