This Is the #1 Best Way To Deal With Spring Allergies, According to Allergists
Flowers are blooming, you’ve stashed your winter coat away and your days are filled with more time outside. It would be blissful if it wasn’t for darn seasonal allergies. Pollen drifting through the air and coating every surface can cause many people to experience headaches, a runny nose, itchy eyes and fatigue—all of which completely get in the way of enjoying a beautiful spring day.
Allergists' offices are certainly busy this time of year, but the good news is that there are ways to minimize symptoms. In fact, there’s one piece of advice allergists tell their patients that they wish everyone with allergies would follow.
Related: Allergy Sufferers, Listen Up! Here Are 10 Symptoms to Take Very Seriously
What Causes Spring Allergies and How To Know If You Have Them
Sara Parker, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care and an associate clinical professor at the University of Missouri, explains that spring allergies are most commonly caused by pollen. “As plants, grasses and trees are blooming, they release the yellow powdery substance that people are allergic to,” she says. Allergist Dr. Jeanne Lomas, DO, the Director of Allergy & Immunology at WellNow Allergy, adds to this, saying that tree pollen is the number one cause of spring allergies, followed by grass pollen. She adds that tree pollen can travel for miles. So even if you don’t have any trees in your yard, you can still be affected by spring allergies.
Allergy symptoms overlap with symptoms for other common health woes, like the common cold or flu, making it tricky to know if what you’re suffering from is actually due to spring allergies. Dr. Lomas says that both spring allergies and a cold can lead to sneezing, a runny nose, congestion and coughing. But she adds that there are some symptoms that set the two apart. “A fever or body aches would indicate an illness like the flu or other viral illness and not allergies. Conversely, if you have significant itching, especially of the eyes, nose and ears, this would be more common for allergies,” she says.
Related: Sniffle, Sniffle! How to Find Out If Your Sneezing and Watery Eyes Could be Allergic Asthma
Dr. Lomas also says if seasonal allergies run in your family, you’re more likely to experience them too. And if your symptoms creep up every spring like clockwork, that’s another good indicator that what you’re experiencing is due to seasonal allergies and not a cold. However, Dr. Lomas also says that spring allergies can develop over time. “This is especially common when there has been a change in environment—for example, if someone moves to a different part of the country for school or work,” she says.
Now you know what causes allergies and how to know if they're the cause of your symptoms. Next comes the big question: How to deal with the symptoms?
Related: The Best Spring Allergies Survival Guide
#1 Best Advice for Seasonal Allergies
If you know that every year you’re going to be hit with spring allergies, Beverly Hills-based allergist Dr. Sherwin Hariri, MD, FAAAI, FACAAI, recommends being proactive and starting taking prophylactic medications (meant to prevent sickness caused by environmental factors, genetic predisposition and lifestyle habits) several weeks before the season starts. He adds that nasal sprays (such as Flonase of Zicam) and antihistamine pills can also be taken in advance of allergy season starting to prevent symptoms. If your allergy symptoms are severe, Dr. Hariri says it’s worth it to see an allergist for allergy shots or drops, which are forms of desensitization or immunotherapy. “Allergy shots and allergy drops work very well and minimize spring allergy symptoms. They can sometimes make patients' allergies go [into] remission,” he says.
Dr. Hariri says that there are also some everyday habits that can help reduce exposure to pollen, which can help minimize symptoms. “[People with spring allergies] should close their windows and change clothing as soon as they get inside,” he says.
Proactively planning ahead is helpful, but spring is already here. Now what? There’s one piece of advice Dr. Lomas recommends to anyone experiencing spring allergies: see an allergist for testing to find out exactly what is causing your symptoms. “Through allergy testing—typically done via skin testing—you will be able to identify whether you have allergies and predict what triggers and exposures may give you symptoms,” she says.
Dr. Lomas adds that seeing an allergist will also open up additional treatment options such as immunotherapy (aka the allergy shots Dr. Hariri mentioned), which she says is the most effective way to reduce symptoms of environmental allergies. She says it leads to less reliance on medications too.
Truly, there’s no need to suffer from spring allergies; there are effective treatments available. So if you’re reading this while simultaneously blowing your nose and nursing a headache, it’s worth it to see an allergist for testing. That way, you can actually get outside and enjoy spring.
Next up, get tips from allergists on how to get rid of allergies—fast.
Sara Parker, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, member of the American Association for Respiratory Care and an associate clinical professor at the University of Missouri
Dr. Jeanne Lomas, DO, allergist and the Director of Allergy & Immunology at WellNow Allergy
Dr. Sherwin Hariri, MD, FAAAI, FACAAI, board-certified allergist based in Beverly Hills, California, Clinical Instructor at UCLA Department of Medicine, and Medical Director at Beverly Hills Allergy