Seasonal Allergies: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Management

seasonal allergies3

Are seasonal allergies overpowering you?  Does it feel like this spring has been worse than in past years? 

For me personally, the past couple of weeks have been miserable. Congested sinuses, sore throat, burning chest, watery eyes, and constantly, blowing my nose. I cannot remember the last time that seasonal allergies had such a strong effect on me. But, from everything I am reading and hearing, this is happening to many others.

On April 27, 2023, CNN had this to say:

“Pollen has exploded to eye-watering levels this spring in some parts of the country after warm weather pushed plants out of their winter slumber much earlier than normal. More than 24 million people in the US have pollen-induced respiratory allergies like hay fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The center’s data shows that more than one in four adults suffered from seasonal allergies in 2021.”

As the seasons change, so do the allergens present in the environment, triggering uncomfortable and often unbearable symptoms.  In this article, I will try and summarize the causes of seasonal allergies, explore some common symptoms, and talk about effective management strategies. My hope is that you will find some helpful tips so you can enjoy the changing season and warmer weather!

Causes of Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to harmless substances in the air, primarily pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. These substances, or allergens, enter the body through the nose or mouth.  When this happens, our immune system mistakenly identifies them as threats. To fight these threats, our system releases chemicals, such as histamine, to defend against them. 

The types of pollen that trigger allergies vary depending on the season and geographic location.

  • In the spring, tree pollens are much of the reason.  Trees like oak, birch, and maple are common problems. 
  • During the summer it is grass pollens. Pollens from the Bermuda and Timothy grass become prevalent.
  • The fall season stirs up much of the Ragweed pollen.

Common Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

Allergy symptoms can present in various ways and typically affect the respiratory system and your eyes.  Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Sneezing: Sneezing is a reflex to expel irritations from the nose. Are you experiencing frequent and repetitive sneezing outbursts?
  • Runny or Stuffy Nose: Your body’s response to allergens can cause the nasal passages to become inflamed and irritated, leading to a runny and/or congested nose.
  • Itchy and Watery Eyes: Pollen can irritate the eyes. This causes itching, redness, and excessive tearing.
  • Nasal Congestion: Swelling and inflammation of nasal tissues give us a feeling of congestion. This will make it difficult to breathe through the nose.
  • Postnasal Drip: Excess mucus is produced in the nasal passage. It then drips down the back of the throat causing a cough or a sore throat.

Effective Management of Seasonal Allergies

There are several strategies that can help to ease your symptoms and improve the overall quality of your life. 

Avoidance

  • Monitor Pollen Counts: Learn the pollen forecasts in your area and try to limit outdoor activities when pollen levels are high.
  • Keep Windows Closed: Try to reduce the allergens from entering your home during peak pollen times.  Keep your windows and doors closed.
  • Use Air Purifiers: Consider using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to remove indoor allergens.

Medications

  • Antihistamines: Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines can help reduce itching, sneezing, and runny nose symptoms.
  • Nasal Sprays: Corticosteroid nasal sprays can alleviate nasal inflammation and congestion.
  • Decongestants: Oral or nasal decongestants can provide temporary relief from nasal congestion. Be sure to use it as directed.
  • Eye Drops: Over-the-counter eye drops can provide relief from your itchy and watery eyes.

My personal experience

Growing up, I suffered every spring and fall from seasonal allergies. But that reaction started to ease in my early 20s. Yes, I can remember a couple of years when it would impact me significantly more, but overall, it was not a problem. Up until now……

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up with a sore throat and sinus headache. It progressed and I spent the next two days between the couch and bed. The Covid tests I took were all negative, so I knew it had to be seasonal allergies. I was using allergy pills, eye drops, nasal sprays, and pain relievers. Nothing seemed to clear things up, they only suppressed the symptoms. From everything I read, this year is bad, and I thought I would just be suffering for the foreseeable future.

Unexpected Surprise

My scheduled acupuncture appointment was last Thursday or 5 days ago.  I usually see her for my back pain and neurological work. But, since I was suffering from allergies, she determined it would be best to focus on the allergy issue. 

With just a few needles and some eucalyptus oil, I tried to relax and let the energy work. By the time she came back into the room, I was already breathing better. Once the needles were removed and I was dressed, she explained everything in more detail.  Also, she gave me some additional tips. Those were:

Eucalyptus oil: Used to help clear the chest and sinuses. The scent is somewhat sweet and thick. I use it in a small diffuser when I sleep. On Amazon, I found this eucalyptus oil.

Chinese Herbs: I was given a “clear sinus” herb. I couldn’t find a link to the brand I received. You will want to work with your local acupuncturist or do your own research. The closest one I found on Amazon was SinusClear

Raw Local Honey: Use this daily to help your body to adjust to the changing seasons. You will want to find one that is local to your area as it will have the same regional pollens to help your body adjust.

It has now been five days since my appointment, and I haven’t had to use over-the-counter medications or nasal sprays. Instead of suppressing my allergy symptoms, I am controlling them. Do yourself a favor and find an experienced local acupuncturist. You will not regret it!


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