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Allergens and Allergies

allergies and allergens

Table of Contents

When is Allergy Season?

What is an Allergen?

What Happens in an Allergic Reaction?

Allergy Symptoms

What Can I Do to Help with My Allergy Symptoms?

Spring Allergies and Allergens

While the Spring Equinox still signals the official start of Spring, allergy season is starting sooner every year. Trees are blossoming sooner, and grasses and weeds are growing faster, all sending more pollen into the air earlier and making allergy season last longer. Understanding allergens can help us better manage our allergies.

When is Allergy Season?

We generally think of the start of Spring as the start of allergy season. But different allergens hit their peaks at different times during the year: pollen levels are higher for trees in the spring, higher for grasses in the summer, and higher for weeds in the fall.

What is an Allergen?

An allergen is something usually harmless that our bodies consider a threat. Allergens can be environmental, seasonal, or even food-related. Environmental allergens are ones that can affect us year-round like dust mites, pet dander, and mold. Pollen is the main seasonal allergen.

What Happens in an Allergic Reaction?

When our immune systems react to allergens as threats, we experience an allergic reaction. During a reaction, our immune system triggers our white blood cells to release a chemical called histamines into our bloodstream. Histamines can make us sneeze, tear up, itch, or develop cold-like symptoms. Most over the counter allergy medications contain some sort of anti-histamine.

Allergy Symptoms

Most allergic reactions, especially those triggered by environmental or seasonal allergens, resemble the symptoms of a common cold. Food allergens can cause more severe reactions such as digestive issues, hives, swollen airways, or anaphylaxis.

Environmental & Seasonal Allergies

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing / Shortness of Breath
  • Dry, persistent cough
  • Rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sinus pressure
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Fever

Food Allergies

  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Hives, itching, or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, and throat or other parts of the body
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion, or trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting

Emergency treatment is needed for anaphylaxis:

  • Constriction and tightening of the airways
  • Swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat
  • Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness

For a reminder on COVID-19 symptoms.

What Can I Do to help with My Allergy Symptoms?

Tips to Manage Allergies
Start taking allergy medicine before your symptoms start
Over the counter remedies include: anti-histamines (Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra), decongestants (Sudafed, Afrinol), nasal sprays, eye drops, and combination anti-histamines & decongestants (Claritin-D, Allegra-D)*
Try a nasal rinse to flush pollen and dander from your sinuses**
Wear a pollen mask during outside chores & a dust mask for cleaning around the house
Shower after coming inside from a walk or doing outdoor work and after cleaning the house - showering helps remove pollen and dust from skin and hair
Keep doors and windows closed
Vacuum and sweep often
Try to sleep in a more upright position if comfortable
Always double check ingredient lists and ask for recipe details to avoid allergens

For tips on the other health benefits of healthy cleaning habits, check out: Springing into Healthy Cleaning Habits.


American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (acaai.org)

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