Commonly referred to as hay fever, allergic rhinitis occurs when the immune system overreacts to something normally considered harmless. Common triggers include pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and mold spores. Pollen can trigger seasonal symptoms, while other allergens may cause year-round symptoms.
The first step in treatment is proper diagnosis. Some patients with rhinitis symptoms do not have an allergy. Skin or blood testing can determine which allergens are affecting you, if any. Treatment may include avoiding allergens, medication, and/or desensitization, known as immunotherapy.
Medication selection is individualized to each patient, based on the symptoms that are most bothersome. Immunotherapy is also individualized to each patient, as a specific mix of allergens affecting that patient are used. For patients wanting to avoid allergy shots, desensitization can be achieved with sublingual dosing (drops under the tongue).
Tree Pollen - Tree pollen may start to be released from March until early June. When the weather and ground start to warm up, the trees start to bud. This can occur as early as February. Once spring season is in full bloom, the trees then start to release pollen. Different trees release their pollen for different lengths of time and during various parts of spring. The peak time for the pollen counts is typically mid-March to mid-May. We recommend you start your allergy medicines in early spring in order to get ahead of the pollen and control your symptoms before they become severe. Eye and nasal allergies are usually the worst during this season. Pollen counts are very high during waking hours and are spread by wind. Pollen counts will be lower during cool, damp, and rainy days, and at nighttime.
Grass Pollen - Grass pollen begins in the Midwest usually around May and continues into late summer. Don't forget that corn pollen, which is a significant allergy here in the Midwest, is also in the grass family. Many of our patients are allergic to corn pollen. Remember that corn pollen and corn smuts can be kicked up in the air when harvest occurs in rural areas. Recommendations for grass allergy is similar to the recommendations for Tree Pollen above.
Weed Pollen and Ragweed - Weed pollen, including ragweed, is one of the most significant outdoor allergens that affect allergy sufferers in the USA. It is found to be a huge allergen in nearly every state. Weed allergy season usually begins late summer, peaking in August to October, and declines rapidly after a hard frost. Changes in weather patterns and the climate over the years has affected the spread and growth of ragweed. These weeds grow in uncultivated areas, along roads, in parking lots, etc. Weed and ragweed can travel high up along wind currents and may spread for hundreds of miles. If you suffer from ragweed allergy, t is important to keep windows closed and stay indoors during hot and windy days when possible. Keeping your yard groomed will help with local weed and ragweed in your immediate surroundings.
Dust Mite - Dust mite protein is a significant cause of year-round allergy and is the number cause of indoor allergy symptoms. Unfortunately, dust mites are microscopic and cannot be seen by the naked eye. They thrive in warm, moist, humid environments where they can feed off the proteins of people and animals. As such, there is a significant dust mite population in bedding, pillows, animal bedding, and carpet. Furry surfaces are a great home for dust mites. At Midwest Allergy Sinus Asthma, we see dust mite allergy sufferers throughout the year. Patients may have more symptoms during humid summers if they don't have air conditioning to dry out the air or during the winter when they spend more time indoors. Keeping the indoor climate dry and less humid can definitely help control the dust mite population in your house. Dust mite protein also triggers asthma and eczema in many patients.
Animal Dander - Similar to dust mites, animal dander often triggers allergy, asthma and eczema. Some dander is quite fine and sticky, especially on soft fabric surfaces. Animal dander is considered an indoor allergen for patients who have pets that live indoors with them. The top animal allergies are to cat and dog dander and saliva. Mouse allergy is also common. As people commonly have more diverse pets such as rabbits, hamsters, and ferrets, the frequency of these allergies is also on the rise. If this is your only allergy, opening up your house is a good idea to circulate airflow. Strategies for pet allergies include air purification, good pet care, and reducing fabric surfaces in the house.
Mold - Mold spores are both an indoor and an outdoor allergen. Allergists consider mold to be a year round allergen for this reason. In the Midwest, mold spores peak outside after rain and moisture and is also carried by wind. Certainly this means spring and fall (particularly during harvest time) are worst times of year for mold sufferers. Even day to day, changes in barometric pressure, warm and dark dewey nights, and leaf clean-up times, can cause a rise in mold exposures. Mold spikes during thunderstorms can trigger asthma attacks. Indoors, mold can grow in wet and dark environments and lead to indoor respiratory problems as well.