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Seasonal Allergy

Seasonal allergy is also called hay fever. An allergic reaction may occur after a person is exposed to pollens released from grasses, weeds, trees, and shrubs. This type of allergy occurs during the spring, summer, or fall when pollens contact the lining of the nose, eyes, eyelids, sinuses, throat, and lungs. This causes histamine and other chemicals to be released from the tissues. Histamine causes itching and swelling. This may produce a watery discharge from the eyes or nose. Severe symptoms of sneezing, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, itching of the eyes, nose, throat and mouth, scratchy throat, and dry cough, or wheezing may also occur.

Home care

Seasonal allergy symptoms can be reduced by these measures:

  • Stay away from or limit your time near the allergen as much as you can:  

    • Stay indoors on windy days of pollen season. 

    • Keep windows and doors closed. Use air conditioning instead in your home and car. This filters the air.

    • Change air conditioner filters often.

    • Take a shower, wash your hair, and change clothes after being outdoors.

    • Put on a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask when working outdoors. Before going outside, take your allergy medicine as advised by your healthcare provider.

  • Decongestant pills and sprays reduce tissue swelling and watery discharge. Overuse of nasal decongestant sprays may make symptoms worse. Don't use these more often than recommended. Sometimes you can get a rebound effect (symptoms worsen), when stopping them. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about these medicines before taking them, especially if you have high blood pressure or heart problems. 

  • Antihistamines block the release of histamine during the allergic response. They may work better when taken before symptoms develop. Unless a prescription antihistamine was prescribed, you can take over-the-counter antihistamines that don't cause drowsiness.  Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for suggestions.

  • Steroid nasal sprays or oral steroids may also be prescribed for more severe symptoms. These help reduce the local inflammation that can add to the allergic response.

  • If you have asthma, pollen season may make your asthma symptoms worse. It's important that you use your asthma medicines as directed during this time to prevent or treat attacks. Some people with asthma have asthma symptoms that get worse when they take antihistamines. This is due to the drying effect on the lungs. If you notice this, stop the antihistamines, drink extra fluids and notify your healthcare provider.

  • If you have sinus congestion or drainage, a saline nasal rinse may give relief. A saline nasal rinse lessens the swelling and clears excess mucus. This allows sinuses to drain. Prepackaged kits are sold at most drug stores. These contain pre-mixed salt packets and an irrigation device.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If you have been referred to a specialist, make an appointment promptly. Getting tested for your allergies can help you find out what things to stay away from and which times of year you should be taking your allergy medicines. Also, allergy shots (allergy immunotherapy) can help ease or prevent seasonal allergy symptoms. These shots are given by a doctor who specialized in treating allergies (allergist). The shots may also lower the amount of medicine you need to take during the allergy season. Talk with your healthcare provider to see if allergy shots might help you.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away for any of the following:

  • Facial, ear or sinus pain; colored drainage from the nose

  • Headaches

  • You have asthma and your asthma symptoms don't respond to the usual doses of your medicine

  • Cough with colored sputum (mucus)

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the healthcare provider

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing, wheezing

  • Hoarse voice, trouble speaking, or drooling

  • Confusion

  • Very drowsy or trouble awakening

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate, or weak pulse

  • Low blood pressure

  • Feeling of doom

  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea

  • Vomiting blood, or large amounts of blood in stool

  • Seizure

  • Cold, moist, or pale (blue in color) skin

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