If you have a cough, runny nose, or itchy eyes during certain times of the year, you probably suffer from seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, affects millions of people all over the globe. Sneezing, stuffy nose, and itchiness in your nose, throat, eyes and ears are al common symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis. These symptoms are most commonly caused by grass, pollen, and mold.
When inhaled, these common allergens cause the body’s immune system to release histamines. Histamines cause an immediate inflammatory response which serves as a signal to your immune system that there is a potentially harmful invader. It is the body’s natural immune response that triggers seasonal allergy and asthma symptoms.
In addition to the most common allergy culprits, there are several other seasonal triggers that can contribute to symptom development. These triggers include:
Smoke (from campfires, wood stoves, or fireplaces)
Chlorine from swimming pools
Evergreens (especially pine) from holiday trees, wreaths, and garland
In this article we will take detailed look at common allergens from all four seasons. We will also give you some action steps to help you fight back.
Common Winter Allergens
The most common trigger for winter allergies is the common Christmas tree. Although, it isn’t the tree itself that is the problem.
Well before the winter holidays, Christmas trees are cut, baled, and shipped on refrigerated trucks to local sellers. During the shipping process, moisture gets trapped in the boughs of the tightly packed trees, creating the perfect environment for mold to flourish.
Once the tree is set up in your home, the mold begins to reproduce, releasing spores into the air in your home. When inhaled, these mold spores can trigger an allergic reaction called Christmas Tree Syndrome.
Common Spring Allergens
Pollen is a fine powdery substance, made up of tiny microscopic grains. These grains are released from trees, grasses, and other plants during reproduction. The pollen count usually peaks during the spring months.
Most pollen grains are so small they can barely be seen with the naked eye. Measuring only six microns on average (human hair is 50-70 microns in diameter), pollen easily enters your respiratory system when it becomes airborne. Once inhaled, your body treats the pollen grains like an invader and releases histamines and antibodies for protection.
For as many as 40 million people in the United States, common seasonal pollen is a powerful allergen that can cause severe allergic reactions.
Common Summer Allergens
The most common summer allergens are insect bites, mold, and pollen. Allergy symptoms triggered by common summer allergens can be mistaken for illness or food intolerances. If you have cold symptoms that last longer than two weeks, consider seeing an allergist for proper diagnosis. Summer allergy symptoms are often mistaken for colds and food intolerances.
Consider seeing a board-certified allergist if you have any of the following persistent symptoms:
Dark circles under your eyes.Caused by discoloration of tiny blood vessels under the surface of the skin, these dark circles have an appearance similar to a “shiner” or black eye.
Adenoidal face. Characterized by a tired or droopy look, adenoidal face is caused by swelling of the lymph tissue in the lining of the throat, known as adenoids.
Nasal crease. A nasal crease is a line that develops across the bridge of the nose. Often caused by repetitive upward rubbing of the nose, it is a common side effect of nasal congestion.
Mouth breathing.Allergic rhinitis can lead to severe nasal congestion, resulting in mouth breathing. In severe cases, sufferers may develop an arched palate or extreme overbite. For children, mouth breathing can cause dental issues that may require braces.
Common Autumn Allergens
The most common trigger for autumn allergies is common ragweed. Ragweed pollen often hitches a ride on the wind, meaning it can trigger allergy symptoms in individuals within a wide radius of its location. Many people mistakenly believe ragweed is only a problem in certain regions of the country. However, ragweed pollen can torment allergy sufferers all across the continent.
Common Year-Round Allergens
Some common allergens know no seasonal boundaries and can wreak havoc on allergies all year long.
Breeding outdoors in fallen leaves, gardens, compost piles and yard waste, mold spores can trigger an immune response that includes coughing, restricted breathing and asthma symptoms.
Dust mites are microscopic insects that feed on dead skin cells shed by your family and pets. As many as 20 million Americans are allergic to proteins found in the bodies and feces of common dust mites.
Dust mites can trigger allergies any time of year. However, the American Thoracic Society reports that emergency clinic admissions for asthma increase with the first seasonal uses of indoor heating systems.
How the Weather Affects Seasonal Allergies
The severity of seasonal allergies can vary from region to region and person to person. However, there are several ways that weather can help trigger allergies.
Most pollen, including ragweed pollen, thrives when the days are warm and the nights are cool.
Pollen levels peak during early morning hours.
Rain tends to wash away standing pollen, but levels often soar immediately following a rainstorm.
Warm temperatures can also cause pollen counts to increase.
Airborne allergens decrease on calm days without wind.
Mold flourishes in hot, humid weather.
Tips for Fighting Seasonal Allergies
Your doctor or allergist may suggest prescription medication or immunotherapy to help relieve your seasonal allergies. Even so, there are practical steps you can take to prevent exposure to common allergens, nipping seasonal allergies in the bud before they disrupt your life.
Keep your home clean. Incorporate dusting and vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum cleaner into your regular routine. Make sure to include carpets and drapes.
Rake your yard and dispose of leaf piles. Fallen leaves are a breeding ground for mold.
Clean gutters and compost bins. To protect yourself from pollen and mold while doing yard work, wear an allergy mask ( an N95 particulate respirator is highly recommended) and safety goggles.
Monitor your local pollen counts. Most weather services will report pollen counts for your area. When counts are high, stay indoors and close your windows.
Groom your pets. Regular bathing and brushing will reduce pet dander and help remove pollen and mold from their fur.
Take off your shoes. Pollen and other allergens can enter your home of the soles of your shoes. Be sure to remove them before you come inside.
Use an air purifier. An effective air purifier can eliminate airborne allergens in your home before they trigger your allergies.
Seasonal allergies can be bothersome, but by following these simple steps, you can make sure they don’t stop you from enjoying your life.
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