If you have them, you know. Allergy season can be miserable. Seasonal allergies—also known as hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis—affect about 25%, or 1 in 4 adults, overall, according to the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics. Some people are more susceptible than others, with white, non-Hispanic adults more likely to suffer (28.4%) than black, non-Hispanic (24%), Hispanic (18.8%) or Asian, non-Hispanic (17%).
While the term “seasonal” indicates the suffering is short-term, that’s not always the case. According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology, more than two-thirds of spring allergy sufferers actually report year-round symptoms of sneezing, coughing, runny nose and itchy eyes.
That makes sense, as different pollens that trigger the symptoms kick up at different times, says Christopher Randolph, MD, a clinical professor of allergy, immunology and pediatrics at Yale University and an allergist in Naugatuck Valley, CT. For instance, tree pollination starts earlier, followed by grass in the spring and summer, then ragweed in late summer and fall.
Warmer winter temperatures are resulting in allergy seasons starting earlier and lasting longer
Other factors are also at play. It’s long been known that climate change increases pollen levels, making seasonal allergies worse. Warmer winter temperatures are resulting in allergy seasons starting earlier and lasting longer, researchers reported in 2022.
As gloomy as all this sounds, you can get relief.
First, Get an Expert Opinion
If you’re self-diagnosing your allergies, getting an expert opinion from an allergist would be a good first step. Ask your doctor to refer you, or check the directories maintained by two major organizations of allergists, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology or the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The allergist might suggest allergy testing.
Routes to Relief
Once the diagnosis is seasonal allergies, there’s much you can do to get relief from that runny nose, itchy eyes and congestion.
- Randolph suggests “pre-medicating” before the season starts. With your doctor’s OK, he says, take an intranasal corticosteroid, the medication preferred as the first-line treatment for moderate to severe seasonal allergic rhinitis under practice guidelines from the Academy, daily, he suggests. “It takes a nasal steroid two weeks or more to have full impact,” Randolph says. Examples are Flonase and many other brands.
- If that doesn’t provide enough relief, allergists may add on intranasal antihistamines.
- What about special diets and other approaches? The National Institutes of Health weighs in on that.
- There is agreement that environmental measures can help, including simple stuff like keeping widows and doors shut as much as possible. After being outside, showering and changing clothes to minimize pollen accumulation can help, too.
- Monitor pollen levels at your location so you can decide if it’s a good day to spend more time indoors. Weather reports often include this information on newscasts to keep you posted on how much pollen is likely to be floating around. Or visit the National Allergy Bureau.
- Wear a mask (we’re pretty sure you still have one handy) when gardening, mowing the lawn or doing other outside chores. According to the America College, a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask is preferred.
More information on allergies can be found at the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, a nonprofit organization to help those with allergy and asthma.
What do you do to combat seasonal allergies? Let us know in the comments!
Kathleen Doheny is a Los Angeles-based independent journalist, specializing in health, behavior, fitness and lifestyle stories. Besides writing for Senior Planet, she reports for WebMD, Medscape, Endocrine Web, Practical Pain Management, Spine Universe and other sites. She is a mom, mother-in-law and proud and happy Mimi who likes to hike, jog and shop.
Doheny photo: Shaun Newton
This article offered by Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency call 911 immediately.