- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies are one of the most common ailments affecting people in the United States. Even people who have not experienced allergy symptoms in the past can suddenly have a reaction to allergens present in the air during changes in the season. Allergies are marked by short-term inflammation of mucous membranes that line the nasal passages. Seasonal allergies are also frequently referred to as hay fever. Some of the most common causes of seasonal allergies are airborne pollens from trees, grasses, flowers, and weeds. For this reason, seasonal allergies are most prevalent during the spring and fall, when pollination of certain types of trees and plants occurs.
The duration of the pollen season varies in many parts of the country. In southern portions of the United States, some trees begin pollinating as early as February, while most grasses pollinate in mid-April. In some mid-western states, however, it is common to experience seasonal allergies in late May or even summer. Ragweed is a leading cause of seasonal allergies in fall. In some western states, there are grasses that will pollinate all year long. Some of these warm-climate weeds can cause allergy symptoms in some people.
It is estimated that allergies affect roughly 40 million people nationwide. Health care expenditures associated with treating allergic conditions are over $1 billion annually. Allergy symptoms are rarely fatal or life-threatening, but they can still cause a lot of discomfort for many people. Symptoms of seasonal allergies may be different in each person. However, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, sinus pain, and headache are all common reactions.
Allergy symptoms begin when pollen from seasonal plants or mold spores enter the body through the eyes, nose, or throat. When these substances are present in the air, most people will not notice. However, sensitive individuals may have an allergic reaction. The body's immune system views allergens as invaders and stages an attack. The reaction within the body is similar to when a virus or infectious agent is present.
The release of histamine is what leads to inflammation within the mucous membranes. Some symptoms of seasonal allergies may be immediate, but most occur within 5 to minutes of exposure. It is also typical for allergy symptoms to return two to four hours later. In some people, seasonal allergy symptoms may last for days. In these instances, over-the-counter antihistamines may be necessary to treat symptoms effectively.
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