Sneezing, watery eyes, and a runny nose. Those are a few of the symptoms that the estimated 50 million Americans who have allergies are familiar with1. Allergies can be present year-round, but the topic starts buzzing when the seasons begin to change. If you’re experiencing these symptoms only at certain times during the year, you may suffer from seasonal allergies.
What are allergies?
First things, an allergy occurs when the body’s immune system sees a substance as harmful and overreacts to it2. Allergies are classified as a chronic disease because they can last a long time or occur frequently.
What are seasonal allergies?
While people who suffer from allergies year-round have allergy symptoms related to indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold spoors, people with seasonal allergies are more impacted by what is happening outdoors. Seasonal allergies are most common in the spring, summer and early fall. These seasons affect people who react to pollen, grass or weeds.
How are seasonal allergies diagnosed?
To diagnose seasonal allergies, first see if you have any of the following symptoms. Common seasonal allergy symptoms include2:
- Watery eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Post-nasal drip
Some of these symptoms overlap with colds, the flu, and COVID-19, but there are usually differentiators in symptoms. For example, while allergies and colds overlap with a stuffy nose and sneezing, a cold brings along other symptoms like coughing, body aches, and headaches3.
While you may exhibit allergy symptoms, you may not know what you’re allergic to. That’s where allergy testing comes into play. There are two types of allergy testing4:
- Skin allergy test. A skin allergy test is usually performed in an allergist’s office. A tiny drop of a possible allergen is pricked or scratched onto the skin. Depending on how your skin reacts, the allergist will be able to determine exactly what you are allergic to and how severe the allergy may be.
- Blood allergy test. A blood allergy test requires a blood draw after which, the sample is delivered to a laboratory for testing. Various tests can be run on the sample to determine what you are allergic to.
How to treat seasonal allergies?
If you have seasonal allergies, there are a few different treatment options1:
Avoid, eliminate or decrease exposure to the allergens that trigger you
When allergy season is in full swing, weather reports often include pollen and mold counts so you can be prepared for the day ahead. While it can be nice to let in fresh air when you’re home and open the doors and windows, it’s advised to keep everything closed during allergy season because it’s an opportunity for allergens to get inside. Changing clothes and taking a shower after you’ve been outside can help remove pollen and other allergens from your environment5.
Because allergies are chronic conditions, there are many medications available to alleviate any uncomfortable feelings. Some are available over the counter, while others, including nasal sprays and drops, may require a prescription from your healthcare provider5.
Immunotherapy (allergy shots)
Allergy shots are considered the most commonly used and most effective form of allergy immunotherapy6. Immunotherapy is a preventative treatment for allergic reactions to allergens like grass, pollen, and dust mites. Allergy shots deliver gradual dose increases of the allergen to get the immune system used to those allergens. Allergy shots can reduce symptoms in about 85% of people with allergies1. This is a longer treatment process and shots are administered once a week or more over the span of several months6.
Next steps for seasonal allergies
If you think you suffer from seasonal allergies, you can first schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. If your healthcare provider orders any blood allergy tests, Scarlet® can visit you at home or work to collect a blood sample for testing. Additionally, Scarlet collaborates with Curex, an online allergy clinic, to make at-home allergy test collection possible.