Ah-Choo! Welcome to Spring Allergy Season

 As anyone who has suffered from spring allergies knows, springtime can mean a whole lot more than April showers and May flowers.

Hay fever can manifest itself as sneezing, itchy/watery eyes and other cold-like symptoms. But spring allergies have nothing to do with hay or fever, but are caused by pollen and mold. Mold grows outdoors in fields and on dead leaves. Pollen comes from grass, trees, and ragweed.

Spring AllergiesPollen and mold can be hard to avoid, especially when spring comes and the weather is beautiful and crisp. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology  (ACAAI) says a single ragweed plant can let loose 1 billion tiny pollen grains. And mold spores are even more prevalent, as they grow everywhere.

What is an allergy?
Allergist and president of the ACAAI, Dr. Michael Foggs says we all have an allergy protein in our bodies and we all breathe in pollen and mold. Pollen and mold are forms of “allergens” which means they can cause an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive to those allergens, which is about 25% of people. An allergic response happens when a protein in the blood called immunoglobin E (rIgE) releases a chemical called histamine.

Histamine tightens small blood vessels of the nose, making fluids leak out into other tissues. This causes noses to run, eyes to water, and skin to itch and swell—all classic symptoms of spring allergies.

Diagnosing Allergies
The first step is to give your doctor a full history of your health. This will involve details about your life, home and work environment, as well as your eating habits. The doctor is looking for clues as to which “allergen” may be causing your spring allergies.

Your doctor may test for allergies by placing small amounts of common allergens on your skin, usually on your forearm or back. If you are allergic, your skin will become red, swollen, or itchy.      

Once you know what’s causing your allergies, your doctor may suggest over the counter medications to fight your symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, and itching). Allergy drugs come in tablets, nose sprays, eye drops, and liquid form. In some cases, the doctor might suggest allergy shots.  

Limit Your Exposure
Limiting exposure to the allergens also can help reduce symptoms. The ACAAI suggests these:

  • Wear a pollen mask when mowing the lawn, raking leaves or gardening.
  • Close your windows and use air conditioning at home and in the car when possible.
  • Try to avoid being outside from 5-10 a.m., when the air is filled with pollen and mold.
  • Dry clothes, sheets and towels in a dryer rather than hanging them outside, where they can collect pollen from the air.

Allergies don't only affect grown-ups. We interviewed some little ones to find out their thoughts on allergies. Their adorable reactions inspire us to learn more about allergies and how we can help ourselves stay comfortable!