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Tips for managing seasonal allergies

Last Modified: April 08, 2021

Family Medicine


This post was written by Heather Willison, MSN, FNP-C, PPG – Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Spring brings us warmer temperatures, sunny days, budding trees and blooming flowers. Unfortunately, for some it may also bring itchy eyes, sneezing, and a runny or stuffy nose (or both).

In the Midwest, we tend to see a rise in tree pollen from now until late May, and that is when grass pollen counts spike. Grass pollen typically remains elevated until late June or early July. Just when you think you are in the clear, ragweed and other weed pollens make their appearance in August or early September and stick around until there is a hard frost in the fall.

Rather than staying indoors for the next several months, let’s talk about some ways to nip those seasonal allergy symptoms in the bud! (pun intended.)

Tips for managing seasonal allergen exposure
  • Check your local weather channel for pollen forecasts and counts so you can plan ahead.
  • Keep windows and doors closed when counts are elevated, and turn on the air conditioning.
  • Pollen counts are highest in the mornings, so consider staying indoors until later in the day.
  • After spending time outdoors, change your clothes and shower to remove pollen.
  • Avoid hanging linens or clothing outside to dry, as they can collect pollen.
  • Avoid spending time outside on windy days, as this just stirs up the pollen in the air.
  • Learn to appreciate rainy days; rain knocks the pollen out of the air for a short time!
  • Consider hiring someone to help with yardwork.
  • Start taking your allergy medications 1-2 weeks before pollen counts are expected to rise. It is better to be proactive than just play catch up later.
Over-the-counter allergy medications

There is a variety of over-the-counter allergy medications available. Some people find that oral antihistamines are most beneficial, while others prefer nasal sprays. A combination of the two may provide even greater relief. Exercise caution when using decongestants, as they can lead to rebound congestion, and in some cases can elevate blood pressure. Finding what works best for you can take some patience.

When should I see an allergist?

If the over-the-counter options are not alleviating your symptoms, it would be appropriate to schedule an appointment with an allergist. Allergists can complete testing that helps to identify which specific allergens are contributing to your symptoms.

Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, may be recommended based on the testing results. Immunotherapy works similarly to a vaccine. You are injected with what you are allergic to, in gradually increasing doses, in order to trigger an immune response. This process includes a weekly build up phase that can last just under a year, and then maintenance therapy every 2-4 weeks for an additional 3-5 years. The goal is for the patient to be able to tolerate exposure to their allergens without experiencing the itchy, watery eyes or nasal symptoms.

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