As the weather warms up and plants begin to bloom, there's another sign of the seasons changing you may have noticed—and aren't too thrilled about: spring allergies.
Seasonal allergies aren’t something you simply have to accept. There are plenty of treatment options, explains Rebecca Friess, MD, an allergist and immunologist who works out of Summit Health’s 1 Seymour Street, Montclair, New Jersey office. Read on for helpful information about spring allergies and how to address them.
What are the symptoms of spring allergies?
If you're not feeling up to par but aren't sure if allergies are the cause, consider whether you have any of the following symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy and watery eyes
Dr. Friess also notes some less common allergy symptoms: "Sometimes pollen allergies lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath," she says.
CityMD emergency medicine physician Dmitry Volfson, DO, adds that it’s important to recognize the difference between seasonal allergies and other illnesses. “Seasonal allergy symptoms overlap with some symptoms seen with infectious causes,” he says.
“Seasonal allergies typically do not cause fever and body aches, which if present, should prompt the patient to be checked for an infectious cause like COVID-19, influenza, and other pathogens,” he continues.
What is causing my allergies?
"Spring allergies are caused by pollen," says Dr. Friess. "In the early spring, it's tree pollen, and a little later, in the late spring and early summer, it’s grass pollen as well.”
When trees, grass, and weeds release pollen—small grains that fertilize other plants—our bodies go into defense mode because their immune system thinks pollen is a danger to it, she explains.
Should I go to an allergist?
Persistent or worsening symptoms should prompt a visit to your medical provider, says Dr. Volfson – a sentiment Dr. Friess shares.
"If your symptoms are not improving with simple over-the-counter measures, or they interfere with your daily activities and quality of life, then you should see an allergist," says Dr. Friess. "Sometimes other allergens besides pollen are culprits, too.”
What are the treatment options?
A first step in treating allergies is avoidance, such as "staying inside when pollen counts are really high, showering when you come in from outside, and/or keeping the windows closed."
Weather apps and local news sources can be useful when planning your outings. “Check your local forecast and pollen counts every day,” suggests Dr. Volfson.
Avoidance isn't always possible, however. Other treatment options include:
- Over-the-counter treatments. These include antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops, and nasal sprays (saline and steroid).
- Prescription medication. If over-the-counter treatments don't work, your allergist can sometimes prescribe medication to help control symptoms.
- Allergy shots. Allergy shots are another option. "We give patients injections made of the substances they're allergic to," explains Dr. Friess. "Every time they come in, we give them a higher dose, and that's what gradually creates tolerance. As a long-term treatment, it can be very effective for patients."
Where can I find an allergist?
“If you are not feeling better with over-the-counter medications and can’t get in to see your doctor, stop by your local CityMD to be evaluated,” says Dr. Volfson.
Same-day allergy appointments are available at several Summit Health locations. Our allergists can confirm if you have allergies, find your triggers, and develop a treatment plan that is suitable to you and your lifestyle. We have offices in Berkeley Heights, Clifton, Closter, Fair Lawn, Florham Park, Livingston, Montclair, Riverdale, Rutherford, and Westfield. View our allergists here.