Itchy eyes, congested nose, sneezing — spring allergies can be a nuisance. Also called allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergies develop when the immune system overreacts to environmental particles like dust, pollen, or mold.
In springtime, the air is full of pollen, and it may seem like there’s no safe place to breathe. Thankfully, spring allergies are common and treatable. Preventative measures can help reduce symptoms and minimize exposure, especially when combined with allergy medication.
Oral antihistamines, available over the counter or by prescription, are a common treatment for spring allergies. Antihistamines work by blocking a chemical called histamine, which is responsible for allergic reactions.
According to Cleveland Clinic, different antihistamines work better for different people. They can cause drowsiness and may interact with other medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice on which antihistamine to try.
For allergies that cause itchy, watery eyes, several kinds of eye drops may provide relief. Artificial tears can soothe dry eyes and flush away allergens. Decongestant eye drops, which may include an antihistamine, can reduce eye redness but may make symptoms worse if used for more than two or three days.
Steroid eye drops treat itching and swelling. Because they can cause serious side effects, this type should only be used under a doctor’s supervision.
Cromolyn Sodium is an over-the-counter nasal spray used to prevent allergy symptoms. It is best to start using cromolyn sodium spray before allergy season, as it may take up to 4 weeks to begin working.
Steroid sprays are available over-the-counter or by prescription. They relieve nasal swelling but may take 2 weeks to begin working. Nasal decongestant sprays are available over-the-counter. They treat allergy symptoms but can cause dependence if used for more than a few days.
Immunotherapy involves desensitizing the immune system. It is usually administered through regular shots but there are also tablets that are absorbed under the tongue.
The shots or tablets contain small amounts of allergens, which are increased over time. The immune system gradually gets used to the allergens, and symptoms then become less severe. Immunotherapy takes time — three to six months of weekly doses, and then three to five years of monthly doses.
Leukotriene is a chemical, similar to histamine, that the immune system releases in response to allergens. Leukotriene modifiers by blocking the effects of these chemicals. They can treat breathing difficulties — such as coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness — associated with spring allergies and are available by prescription only.
The simplest way to reduce pollen exposure is to keep windows and doors closed during allergy season. Change clothes that have been worn outdoors and avoid hanging laundry on outdoor lines, as pollen can collect on fabric.
Consider showering to remove pollen from your hair and skin after being outside. If possible, plan your lengthier outdoor time for after it rains, when less pollen will be in the air, and limit outside activities on windy days.
A simple way to prevent or reduce allergy symptoms is to wear a face mask outdoors. Face masks help ease allergies by filtering out pollen. UCLA Health recommends choosing surgical masks over cloth ones because the former can filter out smaller particles.
Dispose of each mask after use to prevent exposure to any pollen that may have stuck to the mask’s surface. Wearing glasses outdoors can protect the eyes from pollen, but be sure to clean them when you come in to remove any pollen that collected on the glass.
Even if a home’s doors and windows stay closed as much as possible, some allergens will still end up inside. If allergies are impacting you or your family often, consider installing a high-quality air conditioner filter or investing in single-room air purifiers that use HEPA filters.
Choose disposable filters and change them out regularly — permanent filters cannot be adequately cleaned of allergens.
Neti pots are designed to flush out the sinus cavity, and experts tend to agree they can help relieve spring allergies.
Neti pots and other nasal irrigation devices must only be used with a saline solution made with sterile water — either distilled or boiled and then cooled. When used properly, neti pots can relieve congestion and rinse pollen and other allergens from the nose.
Some research suggests that acupuncture can reduce spring allergy symptoms. One small study found that 86% of participants experienced significant allergy relief after six treatment sessions.
More research is needed to determine whether acupuncture is more or less effective than antihistamines, but many organizations support trying it since the risk of harm is low.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.