Sniffles. Sneezes. Watery eyes. Runny nose.
As much as you love Colorado’s changing seasons and beautiful spring months, the seasonal allergies that come with them can leave much to be desired – like another box of tissues. It’s estimated that 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, which are caused when you come into contact with an allergen – something your immune system treats as an invader. As a result, your body releases chemicals such as histamines, prostaglandins and leukotrienes that cause those tell-tale signs and symptoms of allergies.
In most cases, allergies are manageable with over the counter medications, prevention and awareness. However, some allergies can trigger more extreme reactions, such as difficulty breathing or asthma. If your allergies cause discomfort or disrupt your day-to-day activity, it’s important to talk with your primary care provider or immunologist to learn more about ways you can treat your symptoms.
Understanding Seasonal Allergies in Colorado
As Colorado comes into bloom, it’s important to pay attention to allergy symptoms. The Rocky Mountain state is home to a wide variety of trees, which release pollen as soon as the snow starts to melt and days become longer. Tree pollen is a common trigger for seasonal allergies, causing what many confuse with a spring-time cold. The season typically lasts from February through April or May.
As summer approaches, seasonal allergies tend to shift from tree pollens to grass pollens, which usually start to pollinate in May. Depending on summer weather, grass pollens can continue to float through the air (and into your nasal passage) until August or September. If mowing the lawn causes you sneezing fits or watery eyes, or simply spending those long summer days in the backyard leads to allergy symptoms, speak with a healthcare provider about possible solutions.
While seasonal allergies tend to die down in the fall, this is the time of year when weeds pop up throughout Colorado. Sage, ragweed and tumbleweed all release pollen this time of year and continue to do so until the first frost. Late fall and winter are not common allergy seasons, however, they are times of year when it’s more convenient to be indoors. Some molds and pet danders can increase allergy symptoms. Pay close attention to what you’re experiencing to help determine if it’s allergies, a cold or other seasonal virus.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Colorado
Most seasonal allergies in Colorado present with symptoms we typically associate with changing seasons:
- Stuffiness or congestion
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Post nasal drip
However, some allergic reactions appear in the form of hives (itchy red welts on the skin), conjunctivitis (red, itchy, sometimes swollen eyes), or asthma. In severe cases, an allergic reaction causes anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that causes shortness of breath, a tightening of the throat, and drop in blood pressure. *If you think you might be suffering from anaphylaxis, seek immediate medical attention.
Prevention Techniques for Seasonal Allergies
The easiest way to prevent allergies is to avoid exposure to allergens, however this isn’t always realistic, especially if you’re not 100% sure which allergens are causing your symptoms. There are additional steps you can take to help mitigate the amount of allergens inside the home, as well as help reduce exposure when possible.
- Use air filters and purifiers inside the home (HEPA filters are the best)
- Clean and dust regularly
- Close windows and doors to prevent pollen from floating into the house
- Pay attention to daily pollen levels and avoid outdoor activities when levels are high
- Start taking medications before the onset of allergy season
- Rinse off after spending time outside to avoid tracking pollen into bed and onto your pillow
Medical Treatment Options and Choosing the Right One for You
The most common way to treat seasonal allergies in Colorado is over-the-counter medications. Talk with your healthcare provider about the best option for you. For those who suffer more serious symptoms, prescription medications can help, including inhalers if your seasonal allergies lead to asthma. Allergy shots and immunotherapy can also help your body build up a tolerance toward the allergen by exposure in small doses.
It’s important to work with your allergist or immunologist to determine which course of action is best for you, taking into consideration the severity and frequency of your symptoms. While there isn’t a cure for allergies, allergists are specialized in proper diagnosis and treatment of long-term seasonal allergy symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes for Allergy Management
Modifying your lifestyle can help you manage your allergy symptoms. Possible ways to help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms include:
- Making any necessary changes to your diet, especially if certain foods or drinks seem to exacerbate your symptoms.
- Reduce your stress.
- Incorporate exercise and physical activity into your daily routine, however, be cognizant of exercising outside during high pollen times.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Stay hydrated.
While inconvenient, most seasonal allergy symptoms are common and manageable. If you find yourself sneezing and sniffling as soon as you see those first spring blooms or when the neighbor mows the lawn, you’re certainly not alone. Finding successful ways to manage your symptoms can help alleviate the inconvenience of seasonal allergies. If you’re concerned about your allergies, talk with your medical professional. In addition to Aspen Valley primary care physicians, Dr. McDermott and Dr. Pyle serve the greater Roaring Fork Valley as board-certified allergists and immunologists, catering to the specific needs of their Colorado patients.