Allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as “allergies”, is a collection of cold-like symptoms that are caused by an immune reaction to an inhaled allergen. Allergies can occur year-round due to a wide variety of different types of indoor allergens, including dust, pet dander and mold spores. However, allergies are more common during certain times of the year due to the pollen of several different kinds of plants; these pollen allergies are called seasonal allergies or hay fever. In the springtime, seasonal allergies are most often caused by the pollen that comes from blooming trees and flowers. Later in the year, the pollen comes from various grasses and ragweed. Not everybody suffers from seasonal allergies, but about 20 percent of people get allergic rhinitis from one or more allergen triggers.
The symptoms of seasonal allergies are caused by the immune system’s reaction to the inhaled pollen grains. The immune system produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in response to the allergen, as well as chemicals that cause inflammation in the tissue lining the nasal cavity, like histamine. Generally, the more pollen that is inhaled, the stronger the reaction, so the symptoms on high-pollen days are worse than on low-pollen days. When seasonal allergies start, the initial symptoms include a runny nose, frequent sneezing, eye watering and itchiness in the eyes, nose, mouth or skin of the face. After the onset of the initial symptoms, other symptoms may occur, including: nasal congestion, a stuffy feeling, swelling under the eyes, coughing, headache and fatigue. After a person has had allergies for a while, a sore throat can develop because of the post-nasal drip that can occur with excess mucus secretion. The excess nasal secretions drip down the back of the throat, causing a cough and a sore throat.
There are treatments available to control the symptoms of seasonal allergies. For short-term symptom relief, antihistamines are often used, and there are allergy medications available over-the-counter. Symptoms that last for a while without improvement often benefit from the use of corticosteroid nasal sprays, which are prescribed by a doctor. Over-the-counter nasal decongestants can help with symptoms of nasal congestion and stuffiness. Cough medicines and throat lozenges can also help with cough and sore throat symptoms. If you have chronic or severe allergy symptoms, see a doctor for more effective treatment options.