13:57 PM

Spring allergies – a survival guide


Learn the symptoms, triggers and resources for relieving the effects of hay fever, pollen and other springtime sensitivities

Spring is here, and the flowers, trees and grass are awakening after a long cold winter. However, those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies don’t need a calendar to know what time of year it is. And 2023 will be business as usual—in New Jersey and other northeastern states, forecasters are calling for average amounts of tree pollen during the peak period from late March through mid-April, and higher-than-average weed pollen levels later in the summer.

While the pollen and particles in the air can turn a pleasant spring outing into misery for many of us, there are several simple things we can do to prevent a serious immune response and get relief. 

What are the symptoms of spring allergies?

If you have spring allergies, different substances in the environment such as seasonal tree and grass pollens, can trigger your immune system to overreact causing symptoms, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose (congestion)
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Itching in the nose, eyes, or the roof of the mouth

With COVID-19 still around, some people may wonder if their symptoms are caused by an allergy or the coronavirus. In general, people with COVID experience fevers or body aches, while those with seasonal allergies don’t.

Be mindful of the forecast…and act accordingly

If it’s a sunny, windy, high-pollen day, it may be best to stay indoors as much as possible. When you are outside, though, be sure to wear sunglasses, a pollen mask and – especially if you’re gardening – a pair of gloves made of synthetic rubber.

One of the best times to head outside is after a spring rain, which will rid the air of pollen and other allergy triggers – at least for a while.

If you’re not sure how pollen-heavy the day will be, check the daily pollen count forecast for your area; if it’s high, plan more indoor activities. A great resource for doing so is this real-time allergy map at pollen.com; and most local news websites publish pollen forecasts, too.

Pollen keep-away tactics

Even if you’re staying indoors, you can be affected by spring allergy triggers unless you take some precautions. Here are a few suggestions, courtesy of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:

  • Close all windows.
  • Install high-efficiency filters in your central air conditioning system.
  • Don’t hang wet laundry outside to dry. Use a clothes dryer on an indoor clothes rack.
  • Take off shoes upon entering the house (and wash off any dander or pollen from the soles).
  • Vacuum carpets and floors often.
  • If your pets have been outside, towel them off before letting them back in.

Try over-the-counter medicines

You can often reduce the ill-effects of allergy symptoms by trying non-prescription medicines, especially the following:

  • Oral antihistamines. These are especially effective in providing relief from sneezing, itching, runny nose and watery eyes.
  • Decongestants. If a stuffy nose is your allergy problem, decongestant nasal sprays – used as needed – can reduce the symptoms. Don’t use them as a preventive measure, though, because longer-term use can make symptoms worse.
  • Nasal sprays with cromolyn sodium. For some allergy sufferers, these are most effective when used before symptoms emerge.

Combining an antihistamine with a decongestant, or other combinations of medications, can sometimes be effective if a single medicine isn’t providing enough relief.

If you’re unsure about which over-the-counter medications to try, or have any questions about side effects or other concerns, talk to your primary care physician or pharmacist.

Get an allergist’s advice

For many chronic seasonal allergy sufferers, or those suffering debilitating symptoms, treatment from an allergist is the best solution to the problem. An allergist is a medical professional trained to conduct thorough testing to pinpoint the exact causes of your condition, and in many instances can prescribe allergy shots, tablets or other medications that can provide long-term relief. 

Numerous allergists and related specialists are available to Horizon members. Need help finding the right one for you? Click here or use the Horizon Blue app to explore our database of allergy professionals.

Don’t let seasonal allergies prevent you from enjoying this beautiful time of year!

Horizon Health News is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.