The return of spring marks the end of the cold and flu season, but the warmer weather and longer days present a different set of health issues. For many people, spring means itchy, watery eyes and runny, congested noses due to allergies. Knowing your specific allergy will help determine whether you can expect problems during this time of year.
“Tree pollens, which are released into the air as early as January in the Southern states and as late as May or June in the Northern states, are the most common source of spring allergens,” said Jason Caldwell, DO, assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics specializing in allergy and immunology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “There are also year-round allergens, such as dust mites, that can cause problems on their own and increase the severity of symptoms.”
For those with seasonal allergies, over-the-counter antihistamines and eye drops relieve most allergy symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, while prescription nasal sprays are most effective in relieving runny and congested noses, he said.
The most successful and long-lasting form of treatment is allergen immunotherapy, commonly known as allergy shots. It treats allergy symptoms by changing the body’s response to allergens. Allergy shot preparation requires specialized testing, usually in the form of skin testing, to identify a person’s specific allergy triggers – regional pollens, spores, animal dander, dust mites and/or insects, he said.
“All efforts to control seasonal allergy symptoms should be tailored to the individual and take into consideration such factors as the nature of the symptoms, their degree of severity and their seasonality,” Caldwell said. “Anyone who experiences persistent or increasingly severe symptoms should consult their primary care provider to discuss treatment options and decide if an allergy/immunology consultation is needed.”
With these steps in mind, allergy sufferers don’t have to miss out on the joys of spring. Instead, they can be better equipped to enjoy the outdoors and warmer temperatures of the season.