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Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors

"Why are my allergies worse in the spring?"


I am26 and my allergies are out of control in the spring. What gives?


Allergic rhinitis, also know as seasonal allergies or hay fever, is a common condition that affects thousands of Americans. The physiologic process behind allergies is actually an abnormal response of the immune system to a harmless substance. One of the most common allergens is pollen, so I will use this as an example.

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The white blood cells of the human immune system constantly roam the body looking for foreign substances. Virtually all types of substances have the potential to trigger an immune response. Some non-human substances are very common in the environment and the immune system learns to be tolerant of them and not trigger a reaction (a good example of such a substance would be a given food). Ideally the immune system would respond only to potentially harmful substances such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites, while leaving harmless substances alone. However, in many people this is not the situation and certain substances such as pollen, certain foods, and certain medications (such as penicillin) trigger an immune response - we call this an allergy. Allergies range in severity from a runny nose in the spring time all the way up to a severe life-threatening state of shock when an allergic patient is administered penicillin. People with seasonal allergies typically are allergic to pollen from one or several types of plant and, since plants produce most of their pollen in the spring, these allergies are worst at this time of year. I would recommend you see an allergist at your earliest convenience. An allergist is a physician who specializes in testing people for different types of allergies and treating the allergies with appropriate medications or lifestyle changes. An allergist can do specific tests to determine what types of allergens cause your allergy, and can recommend what types medications you may be able to take to minimize you symptoms. Most people can get very good relief from the commercially available allergy medications, so with spring coming in to full bloom I would recommend you see an allergist as soon as possible to maximize your enjoyment of this beautiful season!

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