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NM EPHT Health Effects: Seasonal Allergies

Sneezing, itchy eyes and nose and/or throat congestion are the key signs of seasonal allergies, which often come on suddenly and last a few weeks to a few months. The cause: usually pollen. For this type of allergy, also called hay fever and allergic rhinitis, the symptoms happen when juniper, trees, grasses, weeds, and mold release pollen in the air to fertilize plants. This is why most people with seasonal allergies notice symptoms in spring and autumn.

When these symptoms occur depends on what type of pollen a person is allergic to (and a person can be allergic to more than one kind of pollen), and when that pollen is released, hence the name seasonal allergies. When a person is allergic to pollen, the body treats these tiny particles as invaders. Histamine and other chemicals are released into the bloodstream to react to the pollen and this is when the allergy symptoms show up.

Allergy Season: Signs and Symptoms

Seasonal allergies typically show up in the spring, autumn, and during windy weather but can happen throughout the year depending on the release of pollen. The typical symptoms of seasonal allergies include:

  • sneezing
  • itchy nose and/or throat
  • nasal congestion
  • clear, runny nose
  • coughing
  • itchy, watery, and/or red eyes.

Talk to your doctor if you think you or your child might have allergies. Your doctor will ask you about symptoms and when these symptoms show up. Based on that your doctor may recommend how you should plan for the upcoming season, recommend over-the counter medications to offer relief or refer you to an allergy specialist.

Preventing and Treating Symptoms

Reducing exposure to allergens such as pollen is the best way to lighten the symptoms for a person with seasonal allergies looking for relief. Tips include:

Wash the pollen away and keep it away everyday.

  • Keep windows closed to reduce how much pollen enters into your home, car or work place.
  • Take off your shoes when you go inside. This will cut down on bringing in pollen and dust into your house.
  • Wash your hands and rinse your face often. Pollen settles easily onto the skin and your hands and face most are often are exposed.
  • Take a shower after being outside during pollination seasons.
  • Bathe before going to bed and wash your hair because pollen can easily settle on skin and be trapped in hair.
  • Frequently bathe pets that go in and out of the house because pets can carry pollen in their fur and hair.

Plan your day.

  • Check the daily pollen counts.
  • If possible, stay indoors when pollen counts are high.
  • Plan outdoor activities for days when pollen counts are lower or when for seasons when pollination does not occur  for the trees, grasses or weeds that tend to cause your symptoms.
  • Avoid doing yard work such a mowing lawns and trimming trees during allergy season (pollination).

Clean your home, car, and office/workplace.

  • Dust frequently with a damp cloth and use vacuum machine with a HEPA filter. In addition to vacuum cleaning your floors, you should also clean upholstered furniture such as couches, chairs and car seats.
  • Spring clean in the spring, summer and autumn. Wash the walls, countertops, desks and other surfaces surfaces regularly with soap and water.
  • Wash your bedding. While it is common to wash and change bed sheets weekly, if you have seasonal allergies you should also wash all your bedding such as blankets, comforters, and bedspreads.
  • Wash household items made of fabric such as table linens (tablecloths, napkins, placemats), throw rugs, and curtains.
  • Use mattress and pillow covers.
  • With so many sunny days in New Mexico it may be tempting to dry your clothes, towels and bed sheets on an outdoor clothesline. Avoid doing this during pollination season of the trees, grasses or weeds.
  • How long is your commute to work or school? You may not realize how much time you spend in your car. It is important to vacuum clean your car or truck frequently and wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth.
  • Periodically replace the filters in your heating (furnace) and cooling systems (air conditioner or swamp cooler).
  • Give your pets a bath.
  • Often wash clothes that you wear everyday such a windbreakers, light jackets, sweatshirts and sweaters.

Think about your yard.

  • Do you have wind-pollinating trees or shrubs right outside your bedroom window?
  • How close to your entryway is grass growing?

If you have an allergy sufferer in your household choose landscape options carefully and keep pollination patterns in mind as you plan your yard and garden. For example, plant flowering plants that are pollinated by insects rather than by the wind. In New Mexico cacti and succulents are an option for people with seasonal allergies because these plants are drought-resistant and low pollen producers. Keep in mind that most trees pollinate with the wind and that male trees or shrubs produce more pollen than the female ones.

What else can you do?

Since New Mexico has many mild days of nice weather and great landscapes to explore, staying inside all the time may not be realistic for many. If this is the case for you; talk to your doctor about which medicines (sold over-the counter or prescription), such as nasal sprays would work for you. Your doctor may refer you to an allergist to help you determine which treatment options would best for you. Understanding when the high season is for the pollen you are allergic to is helpful so you may plan your start date for treatments.

Exposure: Find relief by planning ahead

The allergies a person suffers will vary from person to a person. Sometimes it depends on what pollen a person is allergic to, how much of that pollen is in the air and how much a person breathes in. Understanding the typical release time of pollen from local vegetation can help a person plan ahead to minimize exposure. A person can reduce allergy symptoms by planning activities that limit exposure to pollen and can take medications that reduce or prevent symptoms well in advance. In New Mexico, seasonal allergies are common with the release of pollen from these plants:

Pollen Chart

Pollen Counts

Measuring how much pollen is in the air is called a pollen count. Knowing the daily or the average pollen count can help people with allergies plan activities, reduce allergy symptoms, and plan their medication intake. If the pollen count is high for example, then a person can expect uncomfortable symptoms. A person can reduce these symptoms by planning activities that limit exposure to pollen and can take medications that reduce or prevent symptoms well in advance. City of Albuquerque Daily Pollen Count . Learn more about pollen and juniper in New Mexico.