Allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, is a very common disorder affecting 30-40 percent of children and adults in the U.S. The basic definition of an allergy is an abnormal reaction of a part of the immune system, where common things everyone is exposed to, pollen, animal dander, dust mites, molds, etc. are recognized as “foreign” or harmful to the body – and they really aren’t!
An allergic reaction in your body may occur in the upper respiratory tract (nose/eyes/sinuses), lower respiratory tract (lungs), skin, and/or gastrointestinal tract. These are the areas of the body where we come into direct contact with our environment.
Symptoms from allergies that occur in the upper respiratory tract are called allergic rhinitis and although they aren’t life threatening, they can be severe in many people leading to significant morbidity and decreased quality of life. Adults miss work and children with allergic rhinitis are known to miss more days of school and perform poorly when present, especially during their worse seasonal allergies. Both children and adults with allergic rhinitis get more viral infections and sinusitis. And sleep disturbance is common in children and adults with allergic rhinitis leading to daytime tiredness and poor performance at school and work.
The typical symptoms of allergic rhinitis include nasal congestion with sinus pain and pressure, runny nose, sneezing, itchy nose and eyes. Allergic rhinitis is classified as either seasonal, due to tree, grass, and/or weed pollen exposure in the spring or fall; or perennial, due to dust mite, animal or mold allergies. In different parts of the country, spring and fall seasonal allergic rhinitis occur at different times due to different exposures and different weather patterns.
The Start of Spring Allergy Season Across the U.S.
In many parts of the country, the onset of spring allergic rhinitis is due to pollen from cedar and juniper trees and can start as early as December or January in certain warmer climates. It is particularly bad in Texas. Many other trees will pollinate from March through June.
Grass pollen causes an intense allergic reaction usually from April through July, again depending where you live in the U.S. Climate change has caused longer pollen seasons and higher levels of pollination across the country.
Treating Allergic Rhinitis
The approach to treatment for allergic rhinitis includes first, controlling one’s environment as much as possible and avoiding what you are allergic to. Second is to manage symptoms. Medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays, and eye drops and drug-free treatments like nasal washes are the typical course of treatment and can help relieve and manage your symptoms. Tivic Health’s ClearUP Sinus Pain Relief is a new part of the arsenal, recently cleared by the FDA to be safe and effective in treating the sinus pain associated with allergic rhinitis. Finally, if needed, one can be desensitized to what they are allergic to with regular allergy shots or vaccinations.
Alan Goldsobel, MD is a member of the Tivic Health Medical Advisory Board and a practicing physician at Allergy and Asthma Associates of Northern California. He’s an adjunct clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, clinical professor, UCSF and past president of the California Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.