Springtime in Pennsylvania is always much anticipated after a long, cold winter. The flowers, the butterflies, the fresh air. It’s a beautiful time of year – unless you suffer from seasonal allergies.
Suddenly, those signs of spring become symbols of sneezing, blowing, itching, and eye-watering.
Here are some common springtime allergies in Pennsylvania and how to deal with them.
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What Are the Worst Spring Allergies in Pennsylvania?
In winter, there are few plants growing, so pollen is minimal. But after winter passes plants begin to regenerate, which increases the amount of pollen in the air.
Common seasonal allergies, also called hay fever, typically relate to those increased pollen counts.
The most common springtime pollen culprits are:
The worst offenders are the plants and flowers that produce powdery pollen. Grass pollen is most often a problem in late spring heading into summer.
Those gentle spring breezes that feel so nice also are responsible for spreading the pollen around your neighborhood. In fact, wind can carry pollen for miles, so you may have allergic reactions to plants that are nowhere near you at the time.
Mold allergies also peak during the spring months. This is because mold spores – or the seeds that keep the mold spreading – are released during spring. The spores enter the air, along with the pollen, and potentially cause even more allergy symptoms.
Mold spores are present throughout the spring months both indoors and outdoors, so it’s difficult to escape them. While mold can cause allergies any time of year, it tends to be worse during the damp spring months.
What Are the Most Common Allergies for Pennsylvania During Other Seasons?
While spring is the primary season for allergies in Pennsylvania, you may experience the sniffles associated with allergies year-round. Pollen can be an issue throughout the warmer months, but other allergens may be more prominent at other times.
Here are some potential allergens by season:
Summer: Fungus spores and seeds.
Autumn: Ragweed pollen.
Winter: Dust allergens.
How Can I Manage My Pennsylvania-Specific Allergies?
While there’s no real way to avoid pollen completely, you can minimize the allergic reaction to make your life a little more comfortable. Try these methods to lessen your exposure during your allergy season:
- Keep windows closed to keep out allergens.
- Wait for damp days to go outside.
- Filter your air through your HVAC or purifier.
- Keep humidity levels as low as possible.
- Use bedding covers to protect against dust mites.
- Wash up after coming indoors.
- Clean and vacuum regularly to keep dust at bay.
- Skip the yardwork or wear a mask.
- Flush your nasal passages to clear your nose.
- Take allergy medication.
When Should I See a Specialist for My Spring Allergies?
If your allergy symptoms are not well-controlled, your first visit should be to your primary care physician or urgent care. They can determine whether your symptoms are due to allergic rhinitis or allergic asthma or to an illness.
Knowing what’s causing your issues is the first step in dealing with the symptoms. If your symptoms are allergy related, you may be referred to an allergy specialist for further testing.
“Allergists can perform skin testing to determine allergic reactions, but not while the individual is on antihistamines or has active symptoms of allergy, hives, angioedema, or uncontrolled asthma, for safety reasons,” says Larisa Fritz, MD, MS, an allergy and immunology specialist at UPMC Pinnacle Allergy and Immunology in Mechanicsburg. “The assessment could include lung function testing, skin testing, and patch testing, as well as an evaluation of past medical history and a comprehensive list of symptoms.”
Dr. Fritz cautioned that if you ever have an allergic reaction that includes breathing difficulty, throat swelling, or swallowing difficulty – which are signs of anaphylaxis – you should go to the nearest emergency department or call 911 immediately.
“A trip to the ED indicates a life-threatening, urgent situation, and the patient needs immediate medical treatment,” she adds.
Finding the Right Allergy Medication
While many different over-the-counter (OTC) allergy treatment medications are available, it’s important to talk to a health care provider first. They can help you select the best medication for your symptoms and educate you on using the medication properly.
The following medication options may be recommended, depending on your symptoms:
Antihistamines: The body reacts to allergens by releasing histamines, which cause all of those annoying symptoms. Medications called antihistamines work to lower those histamine levels in the body. Lower histamine levels mean fewer symptoms.
Decongestants: If your allergies cause congestion or swelling in your nasal passages, decongestants may help. These medications shrink the blood vessels in the area to minimize swelling.
Nasal spray decongestants: Some people prefer to use a nasal spray version of decongestants to clear the nasal passages quickly.
Steroid nasal sprays: Another nasal spray option that helps to minimize the inflammation caused by allergies.
Eye drops: For red, itchy, watery eyes, medicated drops that go into the eyes can help relieve the symptoms.
Prescription medications: A doctor can prescribe allergy medications that are stronger than OTC options. If you don’t get relief from the products in the store, ask your doctor if a prescription allergy medication is right for you.
Immunotherapy: In some cases, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy to help your allergies. This longer-term option can help relieve allergy symptoms. Given by allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets, immunotherapy gradually introduces the allergen into the body at increasing levels, so the body learns to tolerate it.
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