What is Seasonal allergy and how to diagnose it ?
What is Seasonal Allergy?
Seasonal allergy is commonly called hay fever. They result from exposure to airborne substances like pollen grains, that changes or appear during certain time periods, so their pollen allergy season may be from early spring up to late fall.
When does Seasonal Allergy usually happen?
The term hay fever is somewhat misleading because symptoms do not occur only in the summer when hay is traditionally gathered and it never includes a fever. Hay fever is usually a reaction to pollens and grasses. The pollens that cause hay fever vary by season:
- Spring: Usually trees (such as oak, elm, maple, alder, birch, juniper, and olive)
- Summer: Grasses (such as Bermuda, timothy, sweet vernal, orchard, and Johnson grass) and weeds (such as Russian thistle and English plantain)
- Fall: Ragweed
Seasonal Allergy is also caused by mold spores, which can be airborne for long periods of time during the spring, summer, and fall.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergy?
Seasonal allergies cause itchy skin, a runny nose, watery and redness of eyes, and sneezing. It can make the nose, roof of the mouth, back of the throat, and eyes itch. Itching may start gradually or abruptly. The nose runs, producing a clear watery discharge, and may become stuffed up. The lining of the nose may become swollen and bluish red.
The sinuses may also become stuffed up, causing headaches and occasionally sinus infections (sinusitis). Sneezing is common.
The eyes may water, sometimes profusely, and itch. The whites of the eyes may become red, and the eyelids may become red and swollen. Wearing contact lenses can irritate the eyes further.
Many people who have allergic rhinitis also have asthma (which results in wheezing), possibly caused by the same allergy triggers (allergens) that contribute to allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis.
The severity of symptoms varies with the seasons.
How is seasonal allergy diagnosed?
An Allergy Specialist can usually diagnose these allergies when typical symptoms (such as a runny, itchy nose and itchy eyes) develop during a particular season. Typically, no testing is necessary, but occasionally, the nasal discharge is examined to see whether it contains eosinophils, typically present in an allergic condition. Sometimes a skin test or an allergen-specific immunoglobulin test will help identifying the allergen.
What are the options to get rid of seasonal allergy?
Regularly flushing out the sinuses with a warm water and salt (saline) solution may help loosen and wash out mucus and hydrate the nasal lining. This technique is called sinus irrigation.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays, antihistamines, and decongestants help relieve symptoms. When these treatments are ineffective, a corticosteroid may be taken by mouth or by injection for a short time. One can even undergo allergen immunotherapy if it’s a long standing problem.
What is Allergen immunotherapy?
Allergen immunotherapy also called as desensitization helps some people when other treatments are ineffective. It is needed in the following situations: when symptoms are severe, when the allergen cannot be avoided, when the drugs usually used to treat allergic rhinitis or conjunctivitis cannot control symptoms.
Allergen immunotherapy for hay fever should be started after the pollen season to prepare for the next season. Immunotherapy has more side effects when started during pollen season because the allergens have stimulated the immune system. Immunotherapy is most effective when continued year-round.
How to protect from seasonal allergy?
One can protect from seasonal allergy by wearing an allergy mask, use air filters indoors, keep windows and doors shut, change the clothes after exposure, and shower before bed.
American academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, Beaumont, MSD manuals, Indian College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.
If you have any allergy related issues feel free to contact Allergy Specialist in Bangalore - Dr. Puneeth KN for a consultation.
About the Author
Dr Puneet. K. Nagendra
MBBS, DTCD, DNB (Pulmonary Medicine)
Presently I render my clinical services as an Allergist & Pulmonologist in Bengaluru Allergy Centr, PD Hinduja Sindhi Hospital, Excelcare Hospital and Mahapranajeeva - Speciality Centre for Respiratory diseases at Bengaluru.
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