Ah-Choo! Welcome to Spring Allergy Season

 As allergy sufferers know, spring brings much more than April showers and May flowers. It also brings spring allergies.

The sneezing; itchy, watery eyes, and other cold-like symptoms are known as hay fever. But spring allergies have nothing to do with hay or fever. Rather, they are caused by pollen and mold. Pollen comes from grass, trees, or ragweed. Mold grows outdoors in fields and on dead leaves.

Spring Allergies Pollen and mold are hard to avoid. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology  (ACAAI) says a single ragweed plant can let loose 1 billion tiny pollen grains. There are even more mold spores. They grow all around.

What is an allergy?
Dr. Michael Foggs, an allergist and president of the ACAAI, says we all have an allergy protein in our bodies. And we all breathe in pollen and mold. Pollen and mold are forms of “allergens” which means they can cause an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive to those allergens--about 25 percent of people. An allergic response results when a protein in the blood called immunoglobin E (rIgE) releases a chemical called histamine.

Histamine tightens small blood vessels of the nose, making fluids leak out into other tissues. This causes noses to run, eyes to water, and skin to itch and swell—the classic symptoms of spring allergies.

Diagnosing Allergies
The first step in checking for allergies is to see a doctor who will take a full history. That involves asking about your life, home, and work environment and your eating habits. The doctor is looking for clues as to which “allergen” may be causing your spring allergies.

Your doctor may test for allergies by placing small amounts of common allergens on your skin, usually on your forearm or back. If you are allergic, your skin will become red, swollen, or itchy.      

Once you know what causes your allergies, your doctor may suggest over the counter drugs to fight your runny nose, sneezing, and itching. Allergy drugs come in tablets, nose sprays, eye drops, and liquid form. In some cases, the doctor might suggest allergy shots.  

Limit Your Exposure
Limiting exposure to the allergens also can help reduce symptoms. The ACAAI suggests these:

  • Keep windows closed and use air conditioning at home and in the car when possible.
  • Dry clothes, sheets, and towels in a dryer rather than hanging them outside, where they may collect pollen from the air.
  • Limit time outdoors from 5-10 a.m. when the air is filled with pollen and mold.
  • Wear a pollen mask when mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or gardening.
Allergies don't only affect us as grown-ups, though! We interviewed a bunch of kids to find out their thoughts on allergies. Their adorable reactions inspire us to learn more about allergies and how we can help ourselves stay comfortable!