by Mary Wright, RN, health educator at North End Waterfront Health
About 20% of people have allergic rhinitis, commonly known as seasonal allergies. Symptoms may include runny nose, itchy watery eyes, and nasal congestion. People with asthma or a family history of allergies are at a greater risk of developing allergies. People may suffer from either seasonal rhinitis (symptoms at various times of the year) or perennial rhinitis (symptoms all year long).
Pollen can send the immune system into overdrive. The immune system releases antibodies that attack the allergens which lead to the release of histamine. Histamine causes all of the allergy symptoms.
The most common triggers are trees, grass, ragweed, weed, and mold. During the pollen season, people should stay indoors as much as possible and keep the windows closed. Below is a list of the pollen seasons for the New England area:
Tree pollen: March to June
Grass pollen: May to August
Weed pollen: July to October
Ragweed pollen: August to October
Mold is present all year. Mold spore levels change due to weather conditions such as wind, rain or temperature. Mold grows in warm and damp places. Indoor mold can be controlled by getting rid of the cause.
There are several things that you can do to help your allergy symptoms. It can be helpful to run the air conditioner in your home and car during allergy season. It’s a good idea to stay indoors on windy days. There are several over-the-counter medications that can be used to treat the symptoms. They include oral antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays. Always check with your healthcare provider before taking any new medications.
You should see your healthcare provider for severe symptoms that don’t respond to over the counter medications. You may need skin testing or blood tests to find out what is triggering your symptoms. These test results will help your health care provider find a treatment for your symptoms.