If this warmer weather sends you into never-ending bouts of sniffling and sneezing, there's a good chance you suffer from seasonal allergies — and more specifically, a pollen allergy. But if you think pollen is only found in flowers, think again. "There are different types of pollen," Kanao Otsu, MD, MPH, an allergist and immunologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO, told POPSUGAR. "Trees, grasses, and weeds are typically the three groups of vegetation that produce pollen that affect or cause allergic symptoms."
Dr. Otsu explained that this allergic response, known clinically as allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, often presents with the following symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Nasal itching
- Watery, itchy, or red eyes
- Post-nasal drainage
- A persistent cough
According to Dr. Otsu, you're most at risk of developing pollen allergies if you have a family history of them, particularly on your mother's side. This includes related conditions like eczema or asthma.
If you think you might suffer from seasonal allergies, it's time to make an appointment with an allergist, who will take down a history of your symptoms. "If you tend to have symptoms every Spring and Fall, you're most likely allergic to trees and weeds," Dr. Otsu said. A skin prick test can confirm exactly which type of pollen you're allergic to. "Skin testing panels differ by geographic location, which help test the most common allergens to that specific region," she said.
Once you've been diagnosed, there are a few options for treatment, including internasal steroids (like Flonase or Aller-Flo) and oral antihistamines (like Zyrtec or Allegra). For people with severe symptoms, Dr. Otsu explained that allergy immunotherapy may be an option. This is a series of shots over the course of three to five years that essentially lessens the allergic reaction by modifying the immune system's response to a specific allergen. "This is currently only offered in the U.S. as allergy shots, but in the near future there may be other forms of allergen immunotherapy such as drops or tablets that dissolve under the tongue," she said.