How to Avoid Seasonal Allergies

May 24, 2024


There are steps you can take to lessen the symptoms of hay fever.

As temperatures rise and you spend more time outdoors this spring, you might notice that you’re overcome with itchy, watery eyes or nasal congestion. You’re not alone: 1 in 4 American adults experience seasonal allergies, which often flare up in the spring. Read on to discover what causes these allergies and how to minimize your symptoms.

What Is Hay Fever?

Seasonal allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is the main cause of allergies that seem to come with certain seasons. Dust, pollen and other allergens irritate the mucus in the nose and throat, causing inflammation. This can trigger sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchiness in the eyes or nose, sinus pressure and pain, a sore or scratchy throat, and postnasal drip (mucus dripping down the back of your throat).

Seasonal allergies can also trigger additional symptoms in people with certain conditions. For example, people with asthma may have difficulty breathing, which could lead to an asthma attack, while those with eczema may experience a flare-up of itchy, flaking skin.

Read More: Allergies and Asthma: What’s the Connection?

What Irritants Cause Allergies?

Two types of allergens can cause symptoms: perennial and seasonal. Perennial (year-round) allergens can be in your environment at any time — think dust, mold and pet dander — while seasonal allergens come and go. The most common seasonal allergens are pollens released by trees, weeds and grasses. These can be present as early as January and last into early summer.

How to Reduce Allergens in Your Home

With so many allergens right outside your door, it might seem tempting to stay inside all spring. But even indoors, perennial and seasonal allergies can affect you. Try these tips to allergy-proof your home and reduce your risk of uncomfortable symptoms:

  • Change your air filters monthly to reduce airborne allergens in your home.
  • Close doors and windows on windy days to keep out pollen.
  • Vacuum and wipe down hard surfaces with a damp cloth twice a week to reduce dust.
  • Use low-pile carpets or rugs, which are less likely to trap dust and dander.
  • Encase pillows and mattresses in allergen-resistant covers to banish dust mites, tiny bugs that leave allergy-inducing droppings inside bedding.

Does Humidity Make Allergies Worse?

Damp, humid air can encourage mold growth, which can aggravate sinuses and cause allergic reactions. A humid environment may also draw in bugs, including dust mites and cockroaches, whose waste can cause allergies. A home that’s too dry can also affect allergies by drying out your nasal passages and increasing irritation. Experts recommend keeping your home’s humidity level between 30 and 50 percent. Try putting a dehumidifier in rooms that tend to be humid, such as bathrooms, or a humidifier in dry areas. A smart thermostat can help gauge and regulate humidity levels.

Medical Treatment for Seasonal Allergies

If you’re suffering through spring, you can try at-home remedies to clear up your allergy symptoms. Adventist Health experts recommend the following steps:

  1. Take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin or a generic version of these drugs. They can make you drowsy, so take them before bedtime to avoid side effects.
  2. If you’re not seeing results in a week or two, switch to another medication. Each of these antihistamines has a different active ingredient, so it may take time to find the one that works best for your allergies.
  3. Try an over-the-counter nasal corticosteroid, such as Flonase, for seven to 14 days if you still aren’t experiencing relief. These block the release of substances that cause allergies in your nasal passages.

If none of these methods helps and you’re still experiencing symptoms, it may be time to visit your primary care provider, allergist, or ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. These providers can assess your symptoms, test for specific allergies and recommend treatment.

Managing Allergies in Children

If your child is experiencing a chronic runny nose, sneezes and sniffles, or itchy eyes, skin and throat, it might be seasonal allergies. You can help minimize allergic reactions even in kids who want to spend tons of time outside with a few simple steps:

  • Plan bath time around outdoor play. Wash your children’s hair and bodies when they come inside, and have them change clothing to reduce the transfer of pollen into the home.
  • Encourage children to wear a hat and sunglasses while playing outside to keep pollen out of their eyes.
  • Switch to indoor play on windy days or when pollen counts are high.

If seasonal allergies are making your child miserable, talk to a pediatrician about over-the-counter and prescription medication options, including antihistamines, sprays and drops.

Allergy Testing

If you are suffering from seasonal allergies and aren’t sure what is causing them, an allergy test can help you identify irritants so you can take steps to avoid them. In this simple in-office test, a provider will prick your skin and inject a very small amount of a possible allergen, then observe how your skin reacts. An allergist — a physician who specializes in allergies — will then review your reaction and your medical history to make a diagnosis.

If you have seasonal allergies and at-home remedies aren’t doing the trick, a healthcare provider can help you find relief. Find a healthcare provider near you