If you or a loved one suffer from sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, and a runny or stuffy nose at certain times of the year, you likely experience seasonal allergies. According to the Canadian Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Foundation, approximately 1 in 4 people in Canada deal with seasonal allergies each year – so you aren’t alone!
While allergies of any kind are never ideal, you don't have to let them ruin all your fun throughout the year. Below, we offer our guide to understanding, managing, and treating your seasonal allergies.
What are Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies are a type of allergic reaction that happen during different periods of the year. They are the result of your immune system overreacting to allergens in your environment. The overreactive immune response then results in a variety of uncomfortable symptoms that vary in severity and duration.
Common allergens come from trees, grasses, and weeds, but dust and mould also trigger many people who suffer from seasonal allergies. Unfortunately, you can develop seasonal allergies at any age, and there is no cure. However, many treatment and management options are available to ease your symptoms.
When Do Seasonal Allergies Start and End?
Seasonal allergens are worst between March and October, but they can start or end earlier or later, depending on your region and your allergen triggers. On average, seasonal allergy season peaks between May and July each year.
Spring Seasonal Allergies
After a long, cold winter, you likely cannot wait to get back outside. However, this time of year marks the start of seasonal allergy season. Like you, trees and plants took time to hunker down and rest over the winter. As the weather warms, grasses, weeds, and trees wake up and start producing pollen in full force. This makes May to July unfavourable for anyone sensitive to pollen allergens.
Summer Seasonal Allergies
Once tree and weed allergy season is complete, grass takes over as the primary allergen. Many people find summer to be one of the worst periods of seasonal allergies for them. This could be due to a combination of being outside more and warm, humid air that enables pollen to float around more easily.
During late summer, ragweed also begins to become problematic but peaks in the fall.
Fall Seasonal Allergies
Ragweed allergies typically span from July to September and are caused by the airborne pollen of the flowering ragweed plant.
It is important to note that golden rod (a native plant critical for pollinators) differs from ragweed and does not typically cause seasonal allergies. It is often blamed as the culprit for seasonal fall allergies, but its pollen is heavier and does not become airborne like ragweed’s. Instead, golden rod pollen is moved by bees, butterflies, and other insects, so think twice before pulling it!
Winter Seasonal Allergies
Winter is typically a period where most people get a bit of a break from seasonal allergies. However, it is also the time of year when spending time indoors triggers reactions to dust and mould allergens. You may find winter allergies peak when you are cleaning or digging out holiday decorations that are collecting dust.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
Regardless of which allergens cause your immune system to overact, common symptoms of seasonal allergies typically include:
If you have any of the symptoms above, consider finding a pharmacy near you that can suggest seasonal allergy management strategies and over-the-counter treatment options to provide you or a loved one with relief. It is unlikely that you need to make a trip to your family doctor unless you have additional symptoms combined with those listed above.
Seasonal Allergy Management
While seasonal allergies can be unpleasant, there are many steps you can take to reduce your exposure to allergens. Managing allergen triggers can help reduce the severity of seasonal allergies for you or your family members.
Management options for seasonal allergies include:
Seasonal Allergy Treatment
In addition to seasonal allergy management options, you can also gain relief from over-the-counter medications. Be sure to speak to your local pharmacist about allergy medications and how to administer them correctly if you have never used them before.
Allergy medications can include but are not limited to:
Oral antihistamines help reduce allergy symptoms by relieving watery eyes, sneezing, stuffy nose, and itchiness. Examples of oral antihistamines include loratadine, fexofenadine, and cetirizine. Brand names for these oral antihistamine options are Claritin, Allegra Allergy, and Zyrtec Allergy. However, there are also many generic over-the-counter options that your pharmacist can recommend.
As the name implies, nasal sprays help improve nasal symptoms that are causing you or a loved one grief. Corticosteroid nasal sprays reduce swelling and mucus and can provide relief for a running or stuffy nose. Common brand name sprays in this category include Flonase, Nasonex, and Nasacort. If you opt for corticosteroid nasal sprays, speak to your pharmacist if you plan to use them long-term.
Alternatively, you can try cromolyn sodium nasal sprays. This type of nasal spray provides relief by inhibiting the release of immune system agents that cause responses to allergens. They are most effective when used before you are exposed to your seasonal allergy triggers and when used four to six times per day. A common brand name is Nasalcrom, and generic alternatives are typically available as well.
If you are new to using nasal sprays, ask your local pharmacist to instruct you on how to use them correctly. Failing to administer nasal sprays properly can reduce their effectiveness.
Oral decongestants help provide relief for seasonal allergies by reducing congestion in the nose or head.
They are typically available in liquid, capsule, or tablet form and work by narrowing blood vessels responsible for trapping mucus and reducing drainage. A common brand name for oral decongestants is Sudafed (named after pseudoephedrine).
Before purchasing decongestants intended for use on children, speak to your pharmacist or your child’s family doctor.
If you do not gain relief from over-the-counter seasonal allergy remedies or the severity of your allergy symptoms significantly impacts your quality of life, speak to your doctor about the options available to you. In some cases, you may be a candidate for allergy shots – also known as allergy immunotherapy.
In conclusion, seasonal allergies are the result of your immune system responding to environmental allergens. This immune response appears as uncomfortable symptoms such as runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and itchy ears, throat, and sinuses. Symptoms can range in duration and severity throughout the year. There is no permanent cure, and you can develop seasonal allergies at any age.
Seasonal allergies are most commonly triggered by pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. However, dust and mould can also cause seasonal allergy symptoms. Allergy season spans from March to October, with May to July being the peak period for most people.
One of the best ways to manage seasonal allergy suffering is by reducing your exposure to allergens outdoors. Monitor the air quality index through your local weather network, keep the windows in your home and car closed, and avoid spending time outside when the pollen index is high. In addition, manage the air quality in your home and change your clothing after being outside during allergy season.
When you cannot avoid common seasonal allergens, speak with your local pharmacy about over-the-counter remedies. Consider oral antihistamines, nasal sprays, or oral decongestants to reduce inflammation and itchiness while helping you breathe with ease.
Often, allergy relief options at your pharmacy are sufficient. However, if your seasonal allergy symptoms significantly reduce your ability to enjoy your life or fulfill daily responsibilities, speak to your family doctor about alternate treatment solutions for you.
While seasonal allergies can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, they are often temporary. Take action to avoid allergens and treat allergy symptoms so you can enjoy all the fun and beauty each season has to offer.
Let Cook’s Pharmacy Help Relieve Your Seasonal Allergies!
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, a pharmacist near you can help! Don’t let pollen, dust, or mould hold you back from enjoying your life! Ask a pharmacist at Cook’s Pharmacy to suggest management or over-the-counter treatment options for you or your family members.
Allergy relief is available, and Cook's offers several conveniently located pharmacies in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Wellesley, and New Hamburg. Please drop by to speak to your local pharmacist or contact us through our online form!
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| Poshin Jobanputra |
November 16, 2023