Seasonal Allergies (Burning itchy eyes, runny nose, frequent sneezing and red eyes)
Millions of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies — about one in five, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. However, because of changing climates and environments, that ratio could be much higher. A person can develop allergies at any stage in life, as well as outgrow an allergy at any time.
The symptoms of seasonal allergies often mimic those of a cold. Many people refuse to think they have allergies, simply believing they catch a cold every spring. One of the reasons for this might be because they’ve never before had allergies. Typically, a cold includes a cough and sore throat, both of which are less common with allergies. Seasonal allergies also give you itchy eyes, something that does not happen often with a cold. However, similar symptoms between the two are sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, and fatigue. A runny nose is usually considered the first sign of seasonal allergies. Colds are generally contracted from making contact with someone who has a cold; with allergies, symptoms occur because of your own immune system. Your immune system overreacts to an allergen, leaving you feeling run down and stuffed up.
The length of a cold is generally no longer than two weeks; allergies can last entire seasons. For example, if you are allergic to ragweed, your symptoms can easily last up to six weeks, the average span of ragweed season. Seasonal allergies often deal with outdoor culprits, such as pollen or weeds, particularly wind-pollinated plants, such as trees or grass. Typically, spring and summer are more difficult for seasonal allergy-sufferers, although winter can still be bothersome for some people.
Airborne allergens may also be found indoors; the most common of which are mold, dust, and pet dander. Indoor airborne allergens are easier to avoid than those found outside, as the best way to avoid allergies is to know what your allergen is and stay out of contact with it. For those that cannot avoid their allergen, there are treatments available. Medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal steroids have been proven effective against many of the seasonal allergies from which millions suffer. Antihistamines attempt to prevent symptoms of allergies, such as watery eyes and sneezing, whereas decongestants and nasal steroids are used in conjunction with antihistamines to reduce swelling, but only short term. If these medications do not work, immunotherapy is available. In limited doses, these shots can help alter the body’s reaction to allergens, preventing allergic reactions.
For those who have allergies that can be contained, such as a food allergy, the best course of action is to avoid the allergen all together. Depending on the severity of the allergy, you will have symptoms ranging from hives to anaphylactic shock. If the latter is true, be sure to carry an EpiPen with you and contact emergency care right away.