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Seasons, triggers, prevention and when to seek help

If you’re like millions of Americans who suffer from allergies, the warming weather is on your radar and is a sign of the current pollen season, along with itchy eyes and a runny nose. Although we tend to associate seasonal allergies with springtime, they can occur at any time and many things can trigger an allergy or asthma attack. To help you manage your allergies, we have gathered information that will help you prepare for the changing seasons.

“Seasonal change in the environment plays an important role in whether or not an allergy attack is triggered,” says Sam Singh, M.D., pulmonologist at Orange Coast Medical Center. “Additionally, living in Southern California exposes us to a lot of allergens, the most common being pollen.”

Allergy Types and Symptoms

Allergy symptoms include sneezing, coughing, runny or stuffy nose, as well as itchy and watery eyes. There are hundreds of types of allergens. Some of the most common include the following:

Pollen: So what is a pollen exactly? It comes from plants, such as grass, trees and weeds, and can trigger hay fever or seasonal allergies. Hot and humid days are factors that contribute to higher pollen counts in the air.

“Recent seasons have brought a significant amount of rain to Southern California. Pollen levels tend to be higher during days that immediately follow rainfall,” says Dr. Singh.

Mold: Mold spores can be inhaled through the nose and cause hay fever symptoms. For those with asthma, the spores can even reach the lungs and cause an attack.

Pets: Animal saliva and dander contain proteins that some people are allergic to. We love our pets, but if you are allergic, take measures to minimize contact with them.

The most effective approach to treating allergies or asthma is to avoid factors and reduce the exposure that triggers the condition in the first place. The good news is that for many, there are lifestyle strategies and cleaning practices that can help control allergies and asthma attacks.

What Can I Do to Prevent Symptoms?

• Stay indoors and close the windows on windy, hot or humid days, and post-rainfall when pollen counts are high.

• If you were outdoors, shower before bed to wash off any excess pollen from your skin.

• Carpet and rugs tend to retain dust and other allergens, even after vacuuming. Instead, consider washable rugs and bare floors such as tile, wood and linoleum, which can be easily wiped clean.

• Wear a mask when you clean.

• Don't use scented cleaners or detergents. Fragrances in cleaners can trigger symptoms. Look for fragrance-free products instead.

• Take your shoes off before you go into the house to prevent tracking in dust and pollen.

• If you are allergic to animals, designate “pet-free” rooms, especially your bedroom, to help minimize inhaling allergen-filled dander.

• Bathe your pet regularly to avoid dander buildup.

Remedies and Knowing Your Options

Not everyone will respond to allergens in the same way. Some allergic reactions are relatively mild and localized, while others are more severe. There is no cure for allergies, but there are several types of medications available, both over-the-counter and prescription, to help ease some of the symptoms. Different people seem to benefit from different remedies, so it might be worth trying more than one of these to see which works best for you. Antihistamines such as Loratadine, Cetirizine, and Diphenhrdamine are often used to treat allergy symptoms. Nasal sprays, which is a type of a corticosteroid, such as RHINOCORT®, FLONASE® or Nasonex, are also commonly used.

“I recommend that patients who are diagnosed with asthma and during times of increased flare-ups work closely with their doctor and begin a step-up therapy or combination-therapy with inhaled corticosteroids,” says Dr. Singh.

When to See a Specialist

Sometimes allergies can interfere with day-to-day activities, and over-the-counter remedies are not enough. If you are experiencing more than just seasonal allergies, and your symptoms are persistent or worsen, it might be time to seek the advice of a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and management of allergies and immunological disorders.

Dr. Singh recommends seeing an immunologist for blood work and skin testing to see what you are specifically allergic to. The results will allow the specialist to better determine what is triggering your allergies and help provide much needed relief.

To find an allergy or asthma specialist, please visit our list of providers.