When spring arrives and the trees begin to bud and bloom, people with seasonal allergies start to suffer. Timing for allergy season depends on where you live, but in the Upper Midwest, it lasts from approximately April 1 to June 15. That's a long time to manage symptoms, which include sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, itchy eyes and coughing.
Dr. David Lowe, an Olmsted Medical Center (Rochester, Minn.) asthma and allergy specialist, says seasonal allergies are very common, affecting 30-40% of the population. Symptoms can range from a mild nuisance to debilitatingly severe.
"Tree pollens can be very tough on allergies," says Lowe. "They can be very irritating pollens in terms of the way our bodies react to them."
Here's a simple explanation of what happens when you have an allergic reaction to pollens: You breathe the pollens in, and your immune system recognizes them as bad (even though they're not) and overreacts. This triggers chemical reactions that release histamine and you get symptoms. Lowe describes it as your body's attempt to flush the pollen out.
Treatments range from over-the-counter antihistamines to stronger medications prescribed by your health care provider. Lowe says treatments are safe and work well, so there's no need for people with allergies to suffer. Treatments may not eliminate your symptoms, but they can help a lot.
In addition to the video in this story, I'll be posting a long, weekly "Health Fusion" podcast on seasonal allergies. I'll do a deeper dive into causes, symptoms, treatments and what you can do to try to prevent springtime suffering.