April Showers Bring May…Allergies?

Posted on April 13, 2011


Today is a rainy April day in Boston. Fortunately, this will be followed by new flowers, plants, and trees. Some might find the change refreshing, however, this environmental change will soon cause problems for those who suffer from seasonal allergies.


What are allergies?

An allergy is a reaction to a substance called an allergen. An allergen is usually harmless to most people. However, when an allergen, such as pollen, is absorbed into the body of an allergic person, that person’s immune system views the allergen as an invader and reacts. In its attempt to protect the body, white blood cells produce IgE antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to special cells called mast cells, causing a release of potent chemicals. These are the chemicals that cause the usual allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, itching and sneezing.


Why do you get allergies when the seasons change?

Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever, are very common during the spring, summer, and fall. More than one in five people are affected each year. They are caused by an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens. Seasonal triggers include tree, grass, and weed pollen and spores from fungi and molds.


What are the symptoms of hay fever?

Hay fever symptoms usually start immediately after you’re exposed to a specific allerge and can include:

  • Runny nose and nasal congestion

  • Watery or itchy eyes

  • Sneezing

  • Cough

  • Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat

  • Sinus pressure and facial pain

  • Swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes (allergic shiners)

  • Decreased sense of smell or taste

Your hay fever symptoms may start or worsen at a particular time of year, triggered by tree pollen, grasses or weeds, which all bloom at different times.


Do you need to go to a doctor?

Many people — especially children — get used to hay fever symptoms. But getting the right treatment can reduce irritating symptoms. In some cases, treatment may help prevent more serious allergic conditions such as asthma or eczema.

You should see a doctor if:

  • You think you may have hay fever

  • Your symptoms are ongoing and bothersome

  • Allergy medications aren’t working for you

  • Allergy medications work, but side effects are a problem

  • You have another condition that can worsen hay fever symptoms, such as nasal polyps, asthma or frequent sinus infections


With warm weather on its way, it is important to pay attention to any symptoms you may be showing. Having seasonal allergies can become bothersome and painful; however, getting proper treatment can alleviate the symptoms.


If you want more resources or need help finding a doctor, call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050.