Around March, the weather shifts to reveal the warmer temperatures of spring, blooming flowers, and a return of birds to the sky.
Also in the air are large amounts of pollen—the fine powder responsible for runny noses, sneezes, itching eyes, and other discomforts commonly associated with seasonal allergies.
Otherwise known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, around 1 in 10 people in Ireland experience the uncomfortable symptoms of allergy season. This number cuts across the young and old, affecting both men and women.
If you’re no stranger to hay fever, there’s a good chance your symptoms flare up during certain months, usually after exposure to the outdoors.
Yet, in some cases, potential allergy triggers may lurk at any time of the year and even behind closed doors at home.
Read on to learn about seasonal allergies, potential causes, and the best ways to manage this condition.
What are Seasonal Allergies?
For trees like willow, elm, birch, poplar, and alder, spring represents the time of year to release pollen into the air and encourage fertilisation.
This is the same air you encounter while heading to work, the gym, or walking around your community.
When pollen comes in contact with the mouth, nose, eyes, or throat, the body recognises it as a threat, triggering an immune response.
This response is stored, teaching you to produce a similar reaction every time you come in contact with unfamiliar but otherwise harmless pollen in the air.
Besides contracting hay fever from tree pollen, up to 95% of people with hay fever are allergic to grass pollen, typically discharged any time from around May.
Weed plus other pollen forms are also released across different seasons, raising the risk of hay fever throughout the year.
Back home, allergies can sneak up from dust mites, mould, or even while hanging around pets.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
At different points in time, there are around 150 airborne allergens your body may choose to fight off.
So while enjoying the spring weather in March, grass picnics in July, and even mild weather in Autumn—you may notice a few annoying, tell-tale signs of a hay fever reaction.
These symptoms may be moderate and can last from a few weeks to months.
But with climate change ramping up temperatures and boosting higher pollen production—we could be bracing for more severe allergic reactions/seasons in coming years.
The following are common symptoms of seasonal allergies:
- Runny or blocked nose
- Sinus pain
- Itchy throat
- Itchy nose and ears
- Itchiness in the roof of the mouth
- Pain around the temples and forehead
- Coughing and shortness of breath
- Scratchy, red, or watery eyes, otherwise called allergic conjunctivitis
For people living with asthma, there is a higher sensitivity to allergic rhinitis. Around 60-80% of people with asthma also experience pollen allergies.
In this case, the following symptoms may appear:
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing and coughing
Tips to Protect Against Seasonal Allergies
Allergy season can disrupt daily life, making it a not-so-favourite time of the year.
But by paying attention to the pollen calendar, plus potential triggers around—you can have better control over allergic rhinitis.
The following are ways to prevent hay fever and nip a severe pollen reaction in the bud:
- Wear sunglasses to prevent pollen entry into the eyes
- Keep windows closed to stop pollen from gaining access
- Change out of clothes worn outside, then shower to wash pollen away
- Vacuum and mop around your home to prevent dust mites
- Minimise grass-cutting during this period
- Use your air conditioning unit as a pollen filter
- Avoid smoke to manage allergy symptoms
- Put a thick product like Vaseline around the nostrils to trap pollen particles; this prevents entry into the nasal passages
- Reduce outdoor occasions, taking advantage of overcast, less windy days to manage pollen exposure
For the most part, allergic rhinitis produces uncomfortable but manageable symptoms.
These symptoms can sometimes appear severe, making breathing, sleeping, or concentration difficult.
Nasal sensitivity caused by this condition can also lead to nasal polyps, sinusitis, and middle ear infections.
Because constant sneezing, coughing, and tearing up can be unsettling—allergy season often coincides with reduced productivity at work and even school absences. This makes proper management a top priority for anyone prone to seasonal allergies.
Treatment for Seasonal Allergies
At present, there is no known cure for seasonal allergies. However, this condition can be managed using the right preventative tips and pharmacological support.
Before deciding on any treatment, getting an expert’s opinion on what you are experiencing is best. You may consult a General Practitioner for advice and the best course of action for allergic rhinitis.
Common treatments for seasonal allergies include:
Drugs like antihistamines are a standard resort to manage allergy symptoms. This medication helps to suppress histamine—a chemical released by the immune system during an allergic reaction.
You may be prescribed over-the-counter antihistamines if your symptoms are moderate to mild. But because antihistamines can cause drowsiness, you may want to opt for non-drowsy recommendations from an expert.
Likewise, oral decongestants can provide short-term relief when allergies leave you with a stuffy nose.
To get your regular allergy medication, all you need is to fill out our prescription questionnaire. Once approved, your prescription is sent to your chosen pharmacy for pick up.
If preventive steps and oral treatments aren’t clearing the way for allergy symptoms, there’s another option to try.
A GP may recommend a steroid nasal spray to soothe your airways. These sprays are available over the counter or on prescription.
To get a leg up on allergy season, you want to begin nasal spray treatment a few weeks before the allergy calendar begins. However, to ensure correct use, it’s always advisable to consult an expert before starting any treatment option.
Extreme hay fever can develop into a complication like sinusitis, where the sinuses become inflamed. Immunotherapy—where allergens are gradually introduced to the body to build resistance—is widely recommended to manage severe allergies.
With immunotherapy, you can become less sensitive to pollen or other allergens. This can reduce how intensely you experience allergic reactions during hay fever season.
For the best steps to manage hay fever, you can chat with a GP from the comfort of your home. Our professionals are available via online consultation to advise on proper care during allergy season.
At different times of the year, your body may react to allergens naturally released into the environment.
But while allergy season is largely out of our control, you can manage your reaction by seeking professional advice early, and taking the proper preventative steps.