Seasonal allergies are almost entirely due to pollens, molds and dust mites. In this area, the majority of people who are symptomatic are so during the spring. Most have pollen allergies, and in the springtime that’s predominately tree pollen. Then, when you progress into summer, you get grasses and weeds. Molds usually appear some in the fall, but mostly in the winter. Dust mites are usually a problem in the winter, because people are spending most of their time indoors, where dust and mold can accumulate in greater concentrations.
The classic symptoms of seasonal allergies are sneezing, itching, a runny nose, runny eyes, nasal congestion and post-nasal drip. Some people have a component of asthma with allergies, and typically they have a non-productive cough.
How can people tell whether it is seasonal allergies or a cold?
With a cold, you feel bad. You’re achy, you might have a fever or a sore throat. Colds run their course largely over 10 days, whereas allergies will persist as long as the allergen is around you. Allergies are common triggers of sinusitis. If you start with allergies and then you get facial pain, pressure or discolored drainage, then you ought to see your doctor. Ear infections are more common in people with allergies; symptoms include diminished hearing and ear pain. If you have those symptoms, see a physician.
What are ways to combat allergies?
The best way to combat allergies is avoidance. Try to stay away from what you’re allergic to—though that is often not compatible with wanting to be active outside. Beyond that, there are medications you can take, including antihistamines, decongestants, leukotriene inhibitors and topical nasal steroid sprays. Desensitization shots are also an option. These shots repeatedly expose you to the allergen to teach your immune system how to deal with it in a non-allergic fashion. While these shots give you the possibility of getting over the allergy, if all of the things that you are allergic to are not included in the shots, you can still be symptomatic.
Lastly, it’s been well documented that treating nasal allergies makes it easier to keep asthma under control.
Dr. Ruth is an otolaryngologist who treats diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat, head and neck. He sees patients in Westminster and Eldersburg. To make an appointment with Dr. Ruth, please call 410-840-3336.