A guide to stopping the sniffles and sneezes that come with spring
Spring has come. With it comes thoughts of flowers and gentle rain, but for many people, those spring signs bring on sniffles, sneezes, and respiratory concerns. These spring symptoms have many potential causes, from actual viruses spreading through the community to spring allergies.
When you’re suffering, you may feel desperate for relief.
Fixing your spring maladies starts with finding the underlying cause. Once you know what’s causing you to feel bad, you can take measures to improve it.
This guide takes a deep dive into common spring health concerns, including allergies, and gives you tools you can use to help yourself feel better. When you feel well, you can get out there and enjoy the warmth of spring.
5 common spring allergies symptoms
If you’re sick in the spring, always consult with a doctor first to rule out any underlying infections. For many, spring discomfort is due to allergies. Allergies affect people in many different ways, but these are five common symptoms.
1. Runny or congested nose
One of the most common signs of spring allergies is a runny nose. If you find yourself reaching for the tissues more frequently when spring rolls around, you can probably chalk it up to allergies. Many people have a condition called rhinitis, which means “inflammation of the nose,” according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Rhinitis can cause a runny or congested (stuffy) nose.
Itching in the eyes, nose, and throat are usually signs that you’re having an allergic reaction to the seasonal change. These are often some of the signs that help you distinguish between a cold and allergy symptoms.
3. Watery eyes
Your eyes are quite susceptible to allergens. The delicate tissue that lines the eyes can get irritated when exposed to spring allergens, like pollen or mold. If you’re tearing up frequently, but aren’t really sad, then it may be due to your allergies flaring. Mayo Clinic indicates that eyes may also become red and swollen because of exposure to allergens.
When you start sneezing excessively, it’s often because of irritation from allergens in the air. The extra pollen that accosts you in the spring can cause this symptom to flare up.
5. Skin itching or hives
While hives are usually connected to topical allergens, some people will develop hives or itching skin due to seasonal allergies, the AAFA warns. Sometimes you can have an allergic reaction to plants growing more abundantly in the spring as well. Though these aren’t seasonal allergies, they’re more likely to occur in the spring.
When do spring allergies start?
Spring allergies usually flare up at the start of spring. The actual month varies depending on the local climate. For most parts of the United States, the symptoms show up as early as February.
What causes spring allergies?
You can have allergy symptoms any time of year, but they’re worse for many people in the spring. This is due to a number of allergens that present themselves when the world comes out of winter and heads into the growing season again.
One well-known allergen that’s present in the spring is pollen. While you might think of flowers as a source of pollen, the AAFA explains that trees are a more common problem. Specifically, you may notice allergy symptoms if you have these trees in your area:
- Box elder
Pollen can also come from grasses in the spring. These grasses are common culprits:
- Sweet vernal
Pollen counts tend to be higher on warm and dry days. Wind can also cause pollen to spread more easily, so weather directly impacts how much pollen you’ll be exposed to.
In the spring, people start going outside. The leaves and dead foliage that fell in the winter have been harboring a lot of mold, and it gets moved around by foot traffic and even the wind.
Mold spores get carried on the wind. They can travel on both wet and dry days, triggering your allergy symptoms. The more time you spend outdoors in areas where there are good conditions for mold growth, the worse your allergies may be.
In the spring, your pets may start shedding to prepare for their summer coat. This releases more dander, the shed skin flakes that come with pet hair, into the air.
For many people, dander is an allergen. It has proteins in it that people are allergic to. If you have pets, and you notice increased allergy symptoms in the spring, it may be because of the increased dander in the air.
Insects become more active as the weather starts to warm. Many insects leave behind droppings that people have allergic reactions to. Cockroaches, which tend to invade homes, are a common trigger for spring allergy symptoms due to their droppings, according to Health Partners.
Treating allergies starts with a proper diagnosis
The symptoms of allergies can be similar to the symptoms of colds and other conditions. In order to get the right treatment, you need a proper diagnosis.
Visit your doctor for a full checkup if you’re noticing spring allergy symptoms. Your doctor will be able to tell if you have allergies or a different type of problem. If you do have allergies, your doctor can help you choose a treatment that will work for the type of allergy and reaction you have.
Is it a cold or allergies?
Like many with allergies, you may find yourself asking, “Is it a cold, or allergies?” Knowing how to tell the difference is important because the way you take care of yourself will be different. If you’re sick, you’ll benefit from extra rest. If you have allergies, the treatment is less restrictive.
Some ways you can distinguish between colds or allergies, according to Mayo Clinic, are:
- Duration: Allergies last for weeks or months, while a cold typically resolves within five to seven days.
- Aches and pains: This symptom doesn't come with allergies.
- Itchy eyes: This is typically an allergy symptom.
- Sore throat: This usually means you have a cold. But post-nasal drip caused by allergies can sometimes cause you to wake up with a sore throat. If you’re not sure, talk to a healthcare provider.
- Fever: Allergies never cause a fever.
Some symptoms overlap. Both allergies and colds can make you feel tired and weak or cause sneezing and a runny nose. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re not sure.
Other common spring health concerns
At Evidation, our goal is to help you live the healthiest life you can. That’s why we want you to know about other potential health risks associated with spring. In addition to seasonal allergies, you may also struggle with:
Asthma has the same springtime triggers as allergies do. Mold and pollen, specifically, can make your lungs struggle if you have asthma because your body views them as a threat.
If you’re experiencing tightness in the chest or shortness of breath, even if you have allergy symptoms as well, it may be due to asthma. This health condition can become serious quickly, so talk to your doctor about the right medicines to control it.
Once you have medication, take it as prescribed. Keep your inhaler or other rescue medication handy to ensure you can get treatment when needed.
As insects become more active, the risk of getting bit increases as well. Some insect bites or stings cause little more than an itchy reaction on the skin, but others can lead to full allergic reactions and sometimes anaphylaxis — a life-threatening allergic reaction.
One of the most dangerous insects to watch for in the spring is the tick. Ticks carry a number of viruses, parasites, and bacteria, including Lyme disease. Lyme disease rates are growing by about 476,000 new cases a year, according to the Global Lyme Alliance, and it can be difficult to treat once you catch it. To protect yourself, wear insect repellent when you go outdoors, and if you live in an area with ticks, check yourself for them when you come home.
Cold and flu
Spring means people are getting out into the community more frequently, rather than staying at home like they do in the colder months of winter. With more time around other people comes a higher risk of catching a cold, flu, or coronavirus.
If you’re feeling unwell in the spring, but don’t have typical allergy symptoms, consider that you might actually be sick. Give yourself some time to rest, and if you’re worried about flu or COVID, be sure to get tested.
How to prevent spring allergies
If you're living with allergies in the spring, you're in good company. The AAFA says over 100 million people in the US alone have spring allergies. Thankfully, there are things you can do to protect yourself from these symptoms. Consider these strategies:
Reduce allergy trigger exposure
If you know what your allergy triggers are, reduce your exposure to them. For instance, if you’re sensitive to pollen, avoid chores like mowing the lawn or working in the garden, and don’t bring your outdoor shoes into the home to track in pollen. If you’re allergic to dogs, avoid going to homes that have dogs.
Watch pollen counts
Your local news station will monitor pollen counts. If you have a high pollen day, try to stay home. If you must venture out, do your outdoor activities earlier in the day before the pollen counts rise. Keep your doors and windows closed to prevent pollen from entering your home.
Improve your indoor air
Have your indoor air quality tested, and if the test discovers pollutants, install air cleaning systems. Use your air conditioner to circulate air through the filters, so you don’t add more pollen and other allergens into your home. Use a HEPA filter and HEPA-filtered vacuum in your home.
Clean up your space
Cleaning your space not only helps prevent colds and the flu, but it can also reduce allergen exposure. Keeping dust mites, pet dander, and even pollen off of the surfaces of your home will reduce your exposure to allergens.
Practice better healthcare
Overall, if you take better care of your body, your body may be able to handle allergen exposure better. Learn how to de-stress and relax, so you aren't adding stress hormones to the mix. Use Evidation to track exercise, so you have accountability to make better choices.
How to treat allergies
Prevention is helpful, but sometimes it’s just not enough to stop your allergy symptoms. You can’t avoid pollen altogether, no matter how hard you try, especially in the spring. If you’re living with allergy symptoms, talk to your doctor about treatments. Your primary care doctor can help, but if you have serious allergies, consider getting an appointment with an allergist for specialty care. Some additional options to help include these:
There are many over-the-counter medications that treat seasonal allergies effectively. These include:
- Oral antihistamines
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays
- Cromolyn nasal spray
- Oral decongestants
Some people find that one medication works well for a while, then stops working. Talk to your doctor about changing your medicine if you experience this.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before trying anything new, especially if you have health conditions or take other medications that could interact with these.
Consider alternative treatments
There are many herbs and vitamins that may have a positive effect on your allergy symptoms. These include:
- Stinging nettle
Don’t start taking a supplement without talking to your doctor first. Keep in mind that these aren’t cures for seasonal allergies, but they may help reduce the symptoms.
Consider allergy shots
If your allergies are making you miserable, and you aren’t getting relief through the above options, talk to your doctor about allergy shots. Allergy shots reduce your body’s allergic response by gradually increasing exposure to the allergen in a safe, controlled way.
Protect your health with Evidation
Allergies are a frustrating problem, and spring seems to bring them out. As you move through spring and into summer, make sure you’re taking care of your body well. Evidation can help by adding the accountability component and making it fun to take care of yourself.
Keep taking care of your health with Evidation - download the app today.