Seasonal allergies, sometimes called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, can happen to any of us. Adults who have never had a problem before can develop symptoms, for example if they move to a new city or state. Patients with close family members with allergies or patients with asthma are more likely to have seasonal allergies.
Typical seasonal allergy symptoms include:
- an itchy, runny nose,
- nasal congestion,
- post nasal drip,
- “clogged” ears, and
- itchy eyes that water easily.
Many people know the stuffy feeling, runny nose, and watery eyes of seasonal allergies. Pressure in the face and ears can become very uncomfortable. Excess mucus can accumulate in the throat and lead to coughing as the person tries to clear. Sometimes voices seem to be lower or “gravelly”.
More Potential Problems
Other symptoms can include:
- headache, especially across the forehead,
- itchy ears,
- mild or tickly cough
- a sore throat that can improve throughout the day only to worsen overnight again, and
- skin rashes or eczema flares.
Headaches can occur with or without the commonly associated nose or eye symptoms. Sinuses, special nasal cavities in our heads, can become clogged with mucus and irritated by pollen creating pain, pressure, and discomfort.
Poorly controlled allergy symptoms can lead to poor sleep. Lack of good quality sleep leaves adults tired, grumpy, short-tempered, and sometimes unable to concentrate well during the day. Children can be moody and hyperactive. Skin conditions can appear or worsen without other signs. The post nasal drip can bring on nausea and diarrhea because of irritation the mucus can cause in the stomach and intestines. Some patients notice a decrease in their sense of smell or taste.
Patients with asthma may have a worsening of asthma symptoms while suffering with seasonal allergies. Prolonged sinus congestion can lead to sinusitis, an inflammation or infection of the sinuses. Sinus infection typically leads to a ‘heaviness’ around the affected areas. Children may have more ear infections.
Can you predict when you will have symptoms?
Some people only have problems a month or two during the year because the pollens (allergens) they react to are only present for a short time. Sometimes a person will have spring allergies caused by a high tree pollen count, a break during the summer because they have no problem with grass pollen, then fall allergies due to weed pollen like that from ragweed and mold. Other people seem to suffer most of the year as they react to multiple different allergens through the seasons.
Pollen counts, done by a certified pollen counting station, help some patients know when they are likely to experience symptoms. Unfortunately the pollen count reflect the previous 24 hour period, not the count at that moment, so they may not be helpful when trying to predict how a person is going to feel in the next 24 hours. Thankfully this information is often made available alongside weather forecasts at peak times ie fall and spring.
Rain can help clear the air of pollen and other allergy causing substances but the humidity and warm weather than may occur after the rain will increase pollen release so relief will not last.
Overall, seasonal allergy symptoms will decrease slowly with age, usually over decades.
Could this be a cold?
Colds (and flu) usually have stronger symptoms. Allergies tend to start with watery eyes or runny nasal discharge with mild congestion or a mildly sore, scratchy throat. Hay fever symptoms will start immediately after exposure to allergens and continue as long as you are exposed to the allergens. Fatigue will build up over time with allergies.
Colds will start with much more mucus, a definitely sore throat or earache, and more sudden onset of fatigue. A cold does not start until 3 to 7 days after exposure to the cold virus and will stop as your body fights off the virus. A fever or thick green mucus usually means an infection that may need medical attention.
Severe seasonal allergy symptoms do tend to be rare thankfully. But the problem is very common and has a majorly adverse affect for those that suffer. How best to treat the problem? What ways can you make things better?