There are few things that can be as detrimental to your enjoyment of a good summer quite as much as a seasonal allergy. In most cases, this means dealing with hay fever, also known as an allergy to either tree or flower pollen, or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Take a look at what you need to know to beat seasonal allergies and a few methods on preventing and managing your symptoms as best as possible.
How allergies work
First of all, we have to know that when we’re talking about allergies, we’re not just talking about one kind of illness. For the rest of this article, we are largely going to cover seasonal allergic rhinitis, aka hay fever, which is what we typically mean when talking about seasonal allergies. However, all kinds of allergies work due to the fact that the immune system recognizes an allergen (a substance that originates externally from the body) and over-reacts to it. Most allergens are not noxious, but rather it’s the immune response that causes the symptoms that cause so much trouble.
Symptoms of allergies
The different types of allergies can come with different symptoms, as well. For instance, some allergies, like those caused by fleas, ticks, and other insect bites, can result in localized swelling, itchiness, and pain. In most cases sneezing, a runny or blocked nose and itchy, red, watery eyes are the most common symptoms, particularly prevalent in seasonal allergies. Other symptoms can include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, rashes and hives, swollen lips, tongue, eyes or face, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and dry, red or cracked skin. If a person is prone to experiencing the more severe symptoms, then it may be recommended they have regular access to treatments such as epipens that can calm down the body’s immune response. For a lot of people, allergy symptoms are going to be bothersome and perhaps painful, but nowhere near as severely threatening.
Know what you’re dealing with
As mentioned, you will notice that different types of allergies tend to come with different symptoms, as well as different levels of severity. For that reason, it’s crucial to make sure that you know which allergy you’re dealing with. Hay fever is not the only allergy more common in the summer. Insects, pet dander, certain foods, and other types of allergens are all more likely to affect people in the spring and summer as well. Learn how to get an allergy test so you can pinpoint what, precisely, is causing any symptoms of allergies you might be experiencing. Only then can you accurately begin to take the steps to beat seasonal allergies from disrupting your life as much.
What else could it be?
If you have hay fever but you haven’t had any exposure to pollen or other allergens, or if you have been tested and seem to have no allergies at all, then you should be aware that other summertime sicknesses can be easy to confuse with it. For instance, cold and virus symptoms can be very similar to allergic reactions. Infections such as enteroviruses are a lot more common during the summer. If you have any aches in the body or a fever, then it’s more likely to be some sort of infection. If any symptoms last longer than a week, it’s worth getting it checked out, no matter what it might be.
Control the pollen count in the air
If you have confirmed that you are, indeed, dealing with hay fever, aka seasonal allergic rhinitis, then you should be aware that’s exposure to pollen that is the big problem. In the summer, it might feel like there’s nothing more refreshing than letting the breeze in through the home. However, this breeze will carry any pollen that is in the air directly into your home. Check the local weather report to see if pollen is high in your area today. If it is, close the windows and doors. If you have an air conditioning system, a HEPA filter will be able to catch all kinds of airborne particulates, including pollen, making sure that they are not spread throughout the home.
Get to know your medication early
There is a range of medical treatments for allergic reactions to pollen. Again, knowing whether you’re allergic to tree pollen, flower pollen, or something else is crucial in making sure that you’re taking the right stuff. There are over-the-counter medications, but it’s usually worth getting the advice of your doctor to see which seasonal allergy medications are right for you. Regardless of which ones you have to take, if you can safely take it early, then you probably should. If you know seasonal allergies are coming up, then taking your medication a month in advance can make sure that the medicine is already working through your system by the time the allergies are starting to flare up. This is a great way to beat seasonal allergies.
Don’t bring pollen home with you
When you go outside, try to go out when the pollen count is at its lowest. Pollen counts tend to be the highest in the morning and in the evening, so keeping trips to around noon might be safest. However, you may still bring pollen with you on your clothes. As such, change clothes and get them washed in hot water as soon as you get inside the house. Similarly, you will want to take a shower. Pollen can also get trapped in bed sheets over time so you should be washing and replacing them with fresh sheets every week. Be sure to keep your home free of dust, as well. Pollen often gets trapped in dust which also contains other allergens that make your symptoms worse.
Wear a respirator mask when you go outside
If you’re reading this at the time of publishing, then there is already a debate raging around masks and many people will have a very good reason to wear one. However, in most cases, the DIY and basic masks that are worn to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are not going to be very effective at preventing allergy symptoms. If you’re outside when there’s a high pollen count, or you’re taking care of the yard or vacuuming, then you want to specifically find an N95 respirator mask. Many masks will prevent you from spreading your germs, but respirator masks are specifically designed to block small particles from entering the body. They don’t offer 100% protection (nothing does) but they are highly effective and can help beat seasonal allergies.
Clear your system
One of the most common complaints when dealing with any respiratory allergy is just how congested they can make you feel. Your nose and airways may be full of mucus and feel like they are sealed shut which can be uncomfortable, especially when you’re trying to sleep. You can help clear away this mucus, as well as the allergens then get stuck to your nasal membranes, lessening the immune response in this part of the body. The best way to do this is with a saline nasal rinse, such as by using a Neti pot. Similarly, if you have a sore throat, gargling salt water can help clear those symptoms, too. It might not be the most pleasant treatment, but saltwater is great at cleansing.
Beware other allergens
If you have hay fever, you are also more susceptible to developing other ear, nose, and throat-based allergies. As mentioned, you want to keep dust to a minimum in your home, but you also want to limit your exposure to other airborne allergens. Indoor and outdoor mold is another of the most common allergies, and keeping the home well ventilated and wiping down any standing water is the best way to prevent it. A dehumidifier can be especially useful in the summer. Similarly, you want to limit your exposure to pet dander. If you don’t have a pet, then you shouldn’t get one. If you do have a pet, then make sure they can’t freely relax and rest in your bedroom or on your bed.
Know when to rest
A lot of people learn to live with their allergy symptoms. Even with all of the steps above, they can sometimes get the best of you and make your day at least a little worse. However, you shouldn’t simply ignore them if nothing else works. If you have a headache or nasal congestion, don’t think of it as just a niggling side-effect of your allergies. They can take a serious toll, especially if you try to work past them. If you’re feeling sick, then take a sick day. Get in bed, stay hydrated, and take care of yourself. Overworking will only make things worse in any case.
What’s most important of all, when dealing with allergies, is that you know precisely what you’re dealing with. If you haven’t had your allergies diagnosed yet, or if they have been diagnosed but seem to have changed from one year to another, don’t skip getting an allergy test. Otherwise, you may have allergies you don’t know about and aren’t protecting yourself from, making you even more susceptible to symptoms. Hopefully these suggestions will help you beat seasonal allergies, and have a great summer.