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8 ways to treat seasonal allergies

Courtney Elder writer headshot By | May 4, 2017
Medically reviewed by Anis Rehman, MD

When allergy season hits, you can take comfort in knowing you’re not sneezing, itching, and suffering all alone. Over 50 million Americans experience allergies every year; almost one in three adults have seasonal allergies, and about 40% of children have symptoms of some sort.

While it might seem like a lot of people blowing their nose isn’t such a big deal, those with asthma are significantly affected when springtime begins. Referred to as allergic asthma, more than 25 million people have difficulty breathing when their airways constrict due to an attack. This is a serious matter and can affect children to a large degree. Hospitals note that asthma-related breathing trouble is the third-ranking reason for hospitalizing a child under the age of 15. Fortunately, there are a variety of seasonal allergy treatments that can make the season a little easier.

What is an allergy?

An allergy occurs when your body overreacts to a trigger—like pollen or pet dander—in the environment that is harmless to most people. The substance that creates the reaction is called an allergen. Just like with other illnesses or conditions, your body goes through a lot internally when it encounters an allergen. The first time you are exposed, your immune system will produce an antibody that binds to the allergen, whether it’s a pollen or dust molecule. Your cells recognize this allergen as an invader, and white blood cells come to your rescue to defend your body.

This triggers other cells to come rushing in, and when everyone meets up to attack the allergen, you begin to notice symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, or itchy eyes. Unfortunately, once you develop an allergy to a specific trigger, you’ll experience the same type of response every time you are exposed, year after year.

Common allergy triggers and symptoms

So, what is the best treatment for allergies? Well, it depends on what’s causing your symptoms in the first place. There are three main triggers for seasonal allergies, and they can all affect people in different ways:

  • Pollen: Perhaps the most commonly discussed allergen during springtime, pollen is found in abundance as flowers and trees bloom back to life. Various plants release microscopic particles that create a reaction when coming into contact with someone’s eyes or nose. Common symptoms of a pollen allergy include a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and sneezing or nasal congestion. Sometimes only one of these will manifest or you might experience all of these concerns.

How to treat seasonal allergies

If you have allergies, what are you supposed to do about them? Depending on the cause and the type of symptoms you experience, there are some natural remedies for seasonal allergies that can go a long way toward making allergy season a lot more comfortable, especially when paired with the right allergy medicine.

  1. Pay attention to pollen and mold counts. You can find this on your local news station or at weather.com. If you planned to be outside on a day that’s ranking high with allergens, it might be a good idea to change your outing to a different day.
  2. Wash your hair at night. Gel and mousse can trap pollen, so it’s important to wash them out before you sleep.
  3. Keep your nose clean. It’s easy for pollen to stick to your nose and prolong your allergies. Try a saline rinse or non-prescription nasal spray, like Nasacort or Flonase, to wash out your nose and treat nasal allergy symptoms.
  4. Keep your doors and windows closed. Keep contaminants from entering your home. Some people who are especially sensitive opt to wear a dust mask around their home until their symptoms subside.
  5. Opt for over-the-counter or prescription allergy medication. These can contain antihistamines, decongestants, and more to help fight your condition. Allegra, Zyrtec, and Claritin are among the most popular seasonal allergy medicine.
  6. Reduce your stress levels. Stress raises levels of the hormone cortisol, causing allergy sufferers to react more extremely after stressful events.
  7. Keep your home cool. Dust mites thrive in hotter and more humid temperatures, so be sure to keep your temperature in the 60s with a humidity level between 40% and 45%.
  8. Eat foods that help with allergies. Some say that certain foods can be instrumental in keeping allergies at bay, including pineapple with its natural antihistamine properties or curry, which can help to reduce inflammation.

RELATED: Learn how to combine allergy medicine for a sneeze-free season

Remember, seasonal allergies don’t have to completely ruin your ability to enjoy nice weather. A little careful planning and some management of your symptoms are really all it takes to have a fun and carefree allergy season!