Springtime is notorious for allergies. March in particular can be a difficult month as pollen levels begin to rise. From congestion to itchy eyes, there's no separating the time-old association between allergies and spring.
Allergies are one of the leading chronic diseases in the U.S. Roughly 50 million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever. But what exactly causes allergies? And why do they seem to be more prevalent in the spring?
What Causes Spring Seasonal Allergies?
Allergies are the result of an immune response to substances in the environment, or allergens. Although these allergens aren’t harmful, the body can mistakenly identify allergens as a threat to the immune system. When exposed to an allergy trigger, your body releases chemicals like histamine to protect itself.
Most people start noticing their allergy symptoms ramping up in the spring when plants start releasing pollen as the weather warms up. Spring is when trees will commonly release their pollen, while grasses and weeds will release their pollen later in the year.
Types of Tree Pollen Allergies
Tree pollen is the leading cause of spring allergy symptoms in March. It can be found in large quantities in the air, and because pollen is small and light, it can travel long distances and be difficult to avoid.
In the U.S., the most common trees that cause seasonal allergies are:
Pine trees are also a common source of spring allergies, although their pollen is not as light nor as easily dispersed. Some species of pine trees will even produce pollen during other times of the year as well, depending on their reproductive cycle and the climate.
Common Spring Allergy Symptoms
Spring allergy symptoms and the severity of an allergic reaction can vary by person. Some people develop mild symptoms resembling those of the common cold, while others have more intense, full-blown reactions requiring medical attention.
The most common spring allergy symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy nose, throat, or roof of the mouth
- Post-nasal drip
Less common and more severe spring allergy symptoms can include:
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Anaphylaxis (a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction)
If you experience any difficulty breathing or swallowing, or symptoms of anaphylaxis, seek immediate emergency medical attention. If you think you might be experiencing allergy symptoms, seek a diagnosis through allergy testing.
How Are Spring Allergies Diagnosed?
Testing is an important step to take upon experiencing potential allergy symptoms. Doing so will give you a better understanding of your sensitivities and help you develop a plan for managing them. It can be done through either a skin prick test or an at-home allergy test.
Skin Prick Test
The skin prick test is the most well-known allergy test out there, having been the standard approach to diagnosis for decades. As the name suggests, it involves pricking the skin with fine needles, each of which is tipped with specific allergens, to observe how the immune system reacts to them.
If you have an allergy, the area around the needle will become red, itchy, and inflamed within 15-20 minutes. The test is usually done on the back or forearm, and multiple allergens can be tested at once.
While it has been the standard for some time, there are multiple caveats to this test. The first is that it's downright uncomfortable - no one likes getting poked with needles or experiencing negative reactions. The second is that it can be hard to access and afford since skin pricking is usually only available in person at a doctor's office.
At-Home Allergy Test
If you're looking for a more convenient, comfortable, and affordable option, an at-home allergy test kit might be right for you.
Here's what getting one involves:
- Get a Wyndly at-home test. We ship our CLIA-certified test straight to your door.
- Take the allergy test and return it via mail. You take an easy finger-prick test and return your sample in the provided box.
- Receive your allergy profile. Our doctors interpret your allergy profile for you and create a personalized treatment plan.
How to Prepare for Spring Allergy Season?
Upon identifying sensitivities to springtime allergens like pollen, it's important to take steps to prepare for allergy season. This can include simple things like cleaning and showering more frequently. Doing so will help you to minimize your symptoms and make the most of the warmer months.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Keep windows closed and use A/C: Pollen can easily travel through the air. Ensure it doesn't float its way into your house by keeping windows closed and running the A/C. Equipping your A/C with a HEPA filter will further filter out pollen from the air inside your home.
- Check pollen counts: Before heading outdoors, take a glance at the local pollen count. If it's high, take extra care to protect yourself from exposure. Wearing a dust mask or sunglasses when outside can make a big difference in decreasing the amount of pollen you breathe in or that gets in your eyes.
- Shower after being outside: Pollen can cling to your hair and skin after spending time outdoors. To avoid tracking it throughout your home, take a shower as soon as you come inside.
- Wash clothes: As with showering, it's important to wash your clothes after spending time outside. Pollen can stay on fabric, so be sure to toss clothes in the wash as soon as you can.
- Take your shoes off when you come inside: Pollen can also accumulate on your shoes. To avoid tracking it throughout your home, take them off as soon as you come inside.
- Wipe pets down: When your pet goes outside, they're exposed to pollen, and bring it back inside with them. To avoid having your pets spread pollen around your home, wipe them down with a wet cloth when they come back inside. Giving them more baths during allergy season can also be helpful.
How to Treat Seasonal Allergies in March?
Limiting your exposure to pollen is a great way to reduce your chances of experiencing an allergic reaction. However, pollen is a difficult allergen to completely avoid. In order to get rid of your allergies, it's important to have an effective treatment plan in place in addition to taking measures to reduce exposure.
Over-the-counter medications are an accessible and affordable way to temporarily manage mild to moderate allergy symptoms.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines work by temporarily blocking histamine, a chemical that your body releases in response to an allergic trigger. This can help to relieve symptoms like itchiness, sneezing, and a runny nose.
- Eye drops: If your eyes are especially sensitive to pollen, using eye drops may provide some short-term relief.
- Nasal sprays: Nasal sprays can help clear pollen and other allergens from your nasal passages. They can also help reduce inflammation and relieve congestion.
If over-the-counter options aren’t working, or you want a long-term solution, sublingual immunotherapy might be right for you.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is a type of allergy treatment that results in long-term relief from your symptoms. Sublingual immunotherapy involves placing drops or tablets of an allergen extract under your tongue daily. Over time, your immune system becomes desensitized and you stop reacting when exposed to allergens.
SLIT is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional allergy shots. It's just as effective, less invasive, and can be done from the comfort of your own home.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
Spring allergies can be a pain to deal with, but they don't have to be a permanent part of your life. If you're looking for a long-term solution, Wyndly could be the answer. Our doctors will help you identify your allergy triggers and create a personalized treatment plan to help you live free from your allergies.
Take our quick online assessment today to see if sublingual immunotherapy is right for you!