During spring, trees and grasses begin releasing pollen into the air. When people inhale this pollen, it can trigger allergies.
In the United States, these allergies can occur from February until early summer, depending on the state.
Allergies can come in two forms:
- Seasonal: Symptoms occur in spring, summer, or fall and are usually due to pollen or mold spores.
- Perennial: Symptoms occur all year round. Causes include dust mites, pet dander, mold, and cockroaches.
An allergy occurs when a person’s immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance known as an allergen. When a person has an allergy, the body produces antibodies that travel to the cells that release histamine and other chemicals.
Histamine causes swelling in the nose and eyes in an attempt to stop allergens from entering the body. Histamine also causes sneezing to remove allergens from the nose.
Plants produce tiny pollen grains for reproduction.
While some plants use insects to spread their pollen, others use the wind. Most allergic reactions to pollen occur due to it spreading through the wind. Different plants and trees release pollen at different times of the year.
Common causes of pollen allergy include:
- Trees: Tree pollen peaks in early spring.
- Grass: Grass releases its pollen mostly in late spring.
- Weed: Weed pollen is highest in late summer.
The most common causes of tree allergy symptoms include:
The most common grasses that cause allergic reactions are:
Changes in weather can also affect how much pollen these plants release. Warm days increase plant growth and fertilization, whereas rainy days dampen the spread of pollen.
Windy days help the pollen to spread more quickly, which can increase a person’s allergy symptoms.
Spring allergies can cause the following symptoms:
To prevent exposure to pollen and mold, take the following steps:
- check local pollen counts and limit time outside when pollen levels are high
- keep garden grass short
- wear a dust mask when mowing the lawn and gardening
- avoid dead and rotting logs
- keep all windows closed if possible and use allergy-friendly filters on air conditioning units
- bathe and wash hair daily to remove pollen
- wash bed linen once a week
- change and wash clothes after being outdoors
- dry clothes in a dryer if possible instead of outdoors
- remove shoes before entering the house
- wear hats and sunglasses when outside to limit pollen entering the eyes and landing in the hair
- vacuum floors at least once a week
Treatments for spring allergies can include taking medication, as well as trying some home remedies.
There is a range of medications available to treat spring allergy symptoms. These medications are available both over the counter (OTC) and by prescription.
- Antihistamines: These can relieve symptoms such as itchy eyes and nose, runny nose, and sneezing. Antihistamines are available in pill, nasal spray, or liquid forms.
- Nasal corticosteroids: A type of nasal spray that reduces inflammation. Doctors consider them the most effective medication for allergic rhinitis.
- Decongestants: These work by shrinking the lining of the nasal passages and reducing stuffiness. Decongestants come in pill, liquid, drop, and nasal spray form. Long-term use can cause side effects.
- Leukotriene receptors: These tablets block the action of certain chemicals involved in allergic reactions.
- Eye drops: Eye drops treat eye allergies. Eye drops can provide short-term relief for redness, itchiness, and swelling.
- Additional nasal sprays: other sprays are available to soothe dry nasal passages or thick mucus, reduce post-nasal drip symptoms, and help prevent allergic reactions.
Immunotherapy is a long-term solution that aims to desensitize people to their allergies.
There are two types of immunotherapy: allergy shots and sublingual tablets.
Allergy shots involve having allergen injections for 3–5 years. These injections help build up resistance to the allergen. Sublingual tablets only treat certain types of allergies. They require a person to dissolve a tablet under their tongue every day for up to 3 years. A person can start taking the pills in the months before spring.
Numerous natural remedies may bring relief to people experiencing spring allergies.
- Steam inhalation: Inhaling steam can help to soothe and open nasal passages.
- Saline rinse: A Saline rinse can help relieve a stuffy nose and congestion by thinning out extra mucus from the nasal passages.
- Warm or cold compress: A warm or cold compress on the face may relieve eye itching or sinus discomfort. It will not treat the allergy itself.
- Acupuncture: There is limited evidence that acupuncture can help reduce allergies, but it
may help some people.
A doctor may perform several tests to diagnose a spring allergy, including:
- Skin prick test: A doctor scratches a small amount of the allergen into the person’s skin to look for any reaction. Results take around 10–20 minutes.
- Intradermal test: This is usually more sensitive than a prick test. It involves the doctor injecting a tiny amount of the allergen under the skin to see if there is a reaction.
- Blood test: The doctor will take a blood sample and send it to a lab. The lab technician will add the allergen to the sample to see if the number of antibodies produced increases.
The doctor may ask the person about their symptoms, home and work environments, and family medical history.
A person should see a doctor or an allergy specialist if they feel their quality of life is affected by their allergies.
If a person has chronic sinus infections, headaches, difficulty breathing, or a persistent cough, they should see a specialist to discuss treatments.
Spring allergies respond well to various treatments, both OTC and prescription.
Natural remedies may help soothe symptoms. However, a person should consult a doctor if their symptoms become severe or unmanageable.