Seasonal Allergies: What They Are and How to Treat Them

Source: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

They can strike at any time — and when they do, check your dignity at the door. Seasonal allergies have the uncanny ability to turn even the most composed of us into a heaving, snotty mess in the blink of an eye. Those of us who suffer from them know very well that they’re a nuisance. What most of us don’t know, however, is exactly what seasonal allergies are — or why we have them at all. Read on for brief guide on everything you need to know about seasonal allergies, along with some tips on how to deal with them in the heart of allergy season.

What are seasonal allergies?

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, allergic reactions begin in the human immune system. While we rely on the immune system to stave off illness, allergies are one of the problems it can cause. Allergic reactions occur when the immune system “mistakes an otherwise harmless substance as an invader.” We call those substances “allergens.”

Allergy triggers and reactions vary among all individuals. Seasonal allergies are triggered by pollen, which are “tiny grains needed to fertilize many kinds of plants.” Pollen originate in the trees and grass of the surrounding environment, and are easily spread with the wind.

The immune system’s general reaction to pollen — or any allergen — is to produce Immunoglobulin E antibodies. The antibodies then travel to cells that release histamine and other chemicals, thereby causing the allergic reaction. The reaction manifest in a wide variety of symptoms. Chief among them, writes Healthline, are sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, itchy sinuses, throat, eyes, or ear canals, ear congestion, and postnasal drainage.

In a nutshell, your allergies are a case of mistaken identity, and the blame falls squarely on your immune system — but it does a pretty good job otherwise, so we can’t complain too much.

Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Mario Tama/Getty Images

How do I treat my allergies?

Various measures can be taken to reduce the aggravations associated with seasonal allergies. First and foremost, writes the Mayo Clinic: try to limit your exposure to known allergens. Limit your time outdoors on dry, windy days with high pollen counts, and change your clothes upon returning indoors. Try to delegate yard work to those with less pollen sensitivity. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic recommends that allergy sufferers do their best to keep indoor air dry using a dehumidifier.

Many over-the-counter remedies are available to quell allergic reaction symptoms. Oral antihistamines help relieve sneezing, itching, a runny nose, and watery eyes. Decongestants and nasal sprays are available to relieve a stuffy nose. Various combinations of these types of medicines are available as well. Be mindful of medications that cause drowsiness, and be sure to read all labels!

If you are a severe allergy sufferer, consult your doctor about stronger medications or allergy shots. You may wish to get a skin or blood test to identify specific triggers, which may help pinpoint the best mode of treatment.

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