A Quick Guide to Allergy Relief
Don’t let your seasonal sniffles keep you down. Learn the best ways to treat them.
What is a seasonal allergy?It’s an inflammatory reaction to something in the environment that causes unpleasant symptoms, such as sniffles, sneezes, and swollen sinuses. If you’re predisposed to allergies, the first time your system deems a compound (such as pollen) to be potentially dangerous, your body mass-produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E, or IgE. IgE attaches to mast cells, which are concentrated in the nose, the eyes, and the lungs and which many experts believe help protect the body from invaders. When the allergen returns, IgE latches onto it, signaling the mast cells to release histamines, chemicals that make you sneeze or cause your eyes to tear and itch.
How do you develop allergies?There’s a genetic component to most allergies. If one of your parents has them, there’s an almost 50 percent chance that you will, too. It takes repeated exposure for allergies to develop fully, so several seasons might pass before a condition like hay fever sets in―which is why most kids don’t develop allergies until they’re 4 or 5. Seasonal allergies continue to develop throughout life. “New allergies can occur in any decade, but generally they tend to peak at around age 20,” says Linda Cox, an allergist and assistant clinical professor at the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
When do seasonal allergies strike?The season typically begins in early spring, when trees, including oak, cedar, elm, birch, ash, maple, and walnut, start to pollinate. Grasses, such as timothy, Bermuda, orchard, and some bluegrasses, germinate in late spring and early summer. Weeds, like sagebrush, tumbleweed, and ragweed―by far the most prevalent seasonal allergen, affecting 75 percent of sufferers―kick in during late summer and early fall. (Goldenrod, often confused with ragweed, is sometimes blamed for allergy symptoms, but it actually produces sticky, nonairborne pollen.) Many people think that if they can just make it to fall, they’re in the clear. Unfortunately for some, moldy leaves, an often overlooked allergen, can extend symptoms almost until winter.
There’s good news for flower lovers, though. “Regardless of what you see on TV, you’re never going to have a strong allergic reaction to a bunch of roses,” says New York City ear, nose, and throat physician Jordan S. Josephson. People don’t have allergies to actual flowers. If you find yourself sneezing after a flower delivery, it’s probably due to grasses, ferns, or molds in the soil or the bouquet.