With allergy season in full swing, it’s important to understand the symptoms of allergies, how to alleviate them, and how to differentiate them from other illnesses. Allergies can run the gambit from food and drug allergies, to insect bite allergies, seasonal allergies and pet allergies. Today, we’re focusing on seasonal allergies.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology states that allergic rhinitis affects approximately 40-60 million Americans and are typically caused by an allergic sensitivity to airborne mold spores, or to pollen from grass, trees, and weeds.

Symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy eyes, mouth and/or skin
  • Swollen eyes
  • Cough

People often mistake these symptoms as a “head cold” and approach their provider for an antibiotic. It is important to be aware of the difference in symptoms and understand appropriate treatment and prevention. The following symptoms chart is from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 2014:

Symptom Cold Allergy
Cough Usually Sometimes
General aches and pains Sometimes Never
Fatigue and weakness Sometimes Sometimes
Itchy eyes Rarely Usually
Sneezing Usually Usually
Sore throat Usually Rarely
Runny nose Usually Usually
Stuffy nose Usually Usually
Fever Rarely Never
Managing allergies first and foremost involves avoiding triggers when possible. Keeping windows closed during high pollen days, using air conditioning and using mite-proof bedding covers will help keep symptoms low. Washing hair before bed helps to remove pollen that has accumulated through the day and lessens the chance of having night time symptoms. If you must go outside during high pollen days, use a pollen mask to lessen exposure.

Treating symptoms with antihistamines, decongestants, and eye drops can bring some relief, but for severe cases, seeing an allergist may be necessary for shots or prescription treatment. Treatment does not come without its side effects, such as drying of nasal mucosa and drowsiness. Caution should be taken when operating a vehicle or machinery until you know how medications affect you.

It should be noted that for many people, allergies can trigger asthma attacks. Symptoms of asthma can include coughing, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and wheezing. Asthma can become very serious, even deadly, if left untreated. People with asthma should keep their rescue inhaler on them at all times. Many asthmatics find maintenance inhaled corticosteroids helpful in keeping airway inflammation down, especially during allergy season.

If you find you are experiencing symptoms of allergies and/or asthma, talk to your health care provider about options to manage these conditions. To book an appointment at Neighborhood Health Association, please call 419.255.7883.