While a new season can mean a welcome change in weather, it can also mean the beginning of constant sneezing, itchy/watery eyes, and a stuffy nose for the millions of people who are affected by seasonal allergies.
We talked with Dr. Amy Marks, Beaumont allergist:
How common are allergies?
Allergies are very common in both adults and kids, with up to 50% of the population having some sort of allergic disorder. This could be seasonal allergies, pet dander, food, eczema, asthma, or other allergic disorders.
What causes seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies are caused by pollen, most notably when trees, grass and weeds start to bloom. In the Midwest, especially in Michigan, seasonal allergies typically start at the end of March or early April, but it depends on the weather each year. Seasonal allergies due to pollen can go through the summer and early fall.
What can trigger allergies?
Spring allergies usually start when trees and grass bloom. During the summer and early fall, weeds and ragweed are common triggers, with mold triggering many fall and winter allergies. There are also allergens that affect people all year such as house dust and animal dander.
At what age might parents start noticing allergy symptoms in their children?
In the pediatric population, we typically start noticing pollen-related symptoms around age 4. By that time, kids have been exposed to three or four cycles of the seasons. However, younger kids can have symptoms related to pollen, dust mite and animal dander allergies. As kids get older, their symptoms may get worse, become more noticeable and be less responsive to medication. That’s usually when we would recommend they see a specialist for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
There are a wide range of seasonal allergy symptoms including:
- stuffy nose
- itchy nose
- itchy/watery eyes
- throat clearing
- post nasal drainage (mucus dripping down the back of your throat)
- asthma symptoms
- skin rashes
What’s the difference between the common cold and allergies?
Even when you have allergic symptoms, you typically feel “well.” There is no fever or body aches, and you can generally carry on with your daily activities. Allergy symptoms also last longer than your typical cold. When someone says, "Oh I feel like they've been sick for a month" with itchy eyes, sneezing and nasal congestion, it’s likely allergies.
How can you limit your exposure to allergens?
Limiting factors include:
- keeping your windows closed
- wearing a hat outside to keep your hair from getting pollen in it
- wearing sunglasses to keep the pollen out of your eyes
- showering before you go to bed
- not hanging your clothes outside to dry
- keeping your pets clean and free of pollen
What treatments are available for allergy symptoms?
If you can’t avoid exposure to the allergens, other treatments include medications such as decongestants and antihistamines, nasal sprays, eye drops and allergy shots.
When should you see your doctor for allergy symptoms?
It’s important to talk to your doctor if you can’t control your symptoms and it starts to affect your daily activity, or if there are related conditions that are poorly controlled like asthma.