Hay fever is incredibly common, impacting over 19 million people every year. Of course, hay fever isn’t a virus–it’s an allergic reaction to ragweed pollen. And it’s just one example of the seasonal allergies that plague millions of people on an annual basis. At any given time of year–spring, summer, fall, and winter–there are millions of people suffering from seasonal allergies.
That said, you don’t have to suffer through your allergy symptoms to enjoy some quality time outdoors. There are therapies and medications that can help relieve symptoms–and help you get your summer (or spring or autumn or winter) back.
What are seasonal allergies?
If you have seasonal allergies, it’s because your body is reacting to an allergen that shows up on a regular basis. Usually it’s pollen, which plants produce as part of their reproductive cycle. But even things like smoke from a woodstove can cause an allergic reaction.
Thanks in large part to a changing climate, pollen is sticking around longer (and in greater quantities). Sometimes, it’s even floating further. This means that your seasonal allergies will likely last longer and may even be more severe.
Can you predict seasonal allergies?
One of the ways to predict the 2022 allergy season is to take a look back at the 2021 season. There are a few things to note about last year’s allergy season:
At one point in 2021, over 40% of the United States was suffering from above-average pollen counts.
Wildfire smoke was also present in above-average quantities in 2021. While smoke in itself is not necessarily an allergen (it’s just generally bad to breathe in), smoke can exacerbate allergic reactions to other allergens.
The pollen season has increased in duration–some research suggests by about 20 days or so between the years of 1990 and 2018.
Pollen concentrations have increased by over 20% across the entirety of North America (again, between the years of 1990 and 2018). This means that almost no part of the country has seen an improvement in allergy conditions.
So will 2022 be worse than 2021? It’s a safe bet. It’s likely pollen counts will be higher, and there’s no reason to believe smoke will not be again widespread.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
An allergic reaction is essentially a miscalculation by your immune system. Your body encounters something innocuous (pollen, for example), which your immune system mistakes for a dangerous invader. So your body initiates an immune response. When it comes to seasonal allergies, this results in a wide variety of symptoms, including:
- Red, itchy eyes
- Sniffling and runny nose
- Scratchy throat
Symptoms associated with insect bites and stings or specific foods can be much more severe, but those aren’t typically considered to be “seasonal” allergies.
Can you treat seasonal allergies?
Just because you’re experiencing seasonal allergies now doesn’t mean you’ll always have to suffer through them. In fact, there are some concrete steps you can take to minimize your allergy symptoms. Some of those steps include the following:
Alter your behavior: Consider staying indoors when the pollen counts are particularly high (a quick Google search can provide this information). There also tends to be a peak time of day in terms of pollen counts (what time of day that is depends on the type of allergen), so you can schedule your outdoor activities around that time.
Take medication for symptom relief: Corticosteroid nasal spray and antihistamine pills both offer a form of symptom relief from seasonal allergies. Talk to your doctor about the best times to take your allergy medication. In some instances, you may want to take a puff on your nasal spray before you expect your symptoms to kick in. Whatever medication you’re taking, make sure to read the directions carefully–and follow them!
Immunotherapy: If medication does not alleviate symptoms, you may want to talk to your allergist about a solution called immunotherapy. Also known as “allergy shots,” these treatments will expose your body to small and controlled amounts of allergen–a little bit at a time. Over the course of your therapy, your body will build up a resistance to those allergens. This means that, eventually, your symptoms will diminish and disappear. Immunotherapy is an excellent long-term solution for seasonal allergies.
Plan for summer activities
Most people think of seasonal allergies as a Spring and Summer problem. But allergy symptoms can crop up in the Autumn and Winter as well. It all depends on which allergen is causing your runny nose and watery eyes.
Whenever your seasonal allergies peak, it’s important to know that there are solutions that can help you get back to enjoying the things you enjoy. So don’t let seasonal allergies stand in your way–get out there and do the things you love!