Outdoor allergens can cause seasonal allergic rhinitis , also known as “hay fever” , seasonal allergic conjunctivitis and/or allergic asthma. 35 million people in the United States are affected by these seasonal allergies.
What are outdoor allergies?
Common outdoor allergies, or seasonal allergies are caused by airborne particles such as pollen from various grasses, weeds, and trees and mold spores. They occur when these allergens are inhaled into the nose and the lungs causing allergic reactions.Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis occurs during specific flowering periods during pollen season when plants are shedding their pollen. In general, trees flower in the spring, grasses in the summer and weeds in the fall.
The onset, length, and severity of the season depends on where you live and what specific pollen you are allergic to.
What is pollen?
Pollens are the tiny egg shaped male cells of flowering plant that are necessary for plant reproduction. These tiny powdery granules are, on average, less than the width of a human hair.
During pollen season, plants release their pollen to initiate their reproductive processes with nearby plants of their species, increasing pollen levels in the surrounding areas. Pollens are carried by the wind and this is why pollen is frequently present in the air we breathe.
What is a mold allergy?
Mold and mildew are fungi. They differ from plants or animals in how they reproduce and grow. The “seeds,” called spores, are spread by the wind outdoors and by air indoors. Some spores are released in dry, windy weather. Others are released with the fog or dew when humidity is high.
Inhaling the spores causes allergic reactions in some people. Allergic symptoms from fungus spores are most common from July to late summer. But with fungi growing in so many places, allergic reactions can occur year round.
Although there are many types of molds, only a few dozen cause allergic reactions. Alternaria, Cladosporium (Hormodendrum), Aspergillus are common airborne molds. Many molds grow on rotting logs and fallen leaves, in compost piles and on grasses and grains. Unlike pollens, molds do not die with the first killing frost. Most outdoor molds become dormant during the winter. In the spring they grow on plants killed by the cold.
Some people with mold allergies may have allergy symptoms the entire summer because of outdoor molds or year-round if symptoms are due to indoor molds which would be considered perennial allergies.
Mold spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They also can reach the lungs, to cause asthma or another serious illness called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.
What are the symptoms of an outdoor allergy?
Outdoor allergies can cause allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and allergic asthma.
The most common symptoms of allergic rhinitis are:
- clear and watery nasal discharge
- congestion (stuffy nose)
- itchy eyes, nose, and throat
- watery eyes
The most common symptoms of allergic asthma are:
- Wheezing (whistling sound of air moving through narrowed airways)
- Chest Tightness
- Coughing (particularly at night and early morning)
- Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
The most common symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are:
- Itchy eyes
- Redness of the eye
- Burning eyes
Outdoor allergies can cause all or only one of these conditions.
How are outdoor allergies diagnosed?
If outdoor allergies are suspected, your allergist will ask you about your health and family history and perform a physical exam. He or she will ask you to fill out a questionnaire about your symptoms to determine what type of symptoms you have, their severity and where and when the occur. It will be about the outdoor environment where you live and work or go to school as well as your home environment. Your allergist may perform allergy tests to determine what you are allergic to and how severe the allergy is. These tests include skin tests via prick technique or intradermal injection, blood tests (RAST) or challenge testing. The test results alone do not diagnose allergies. All test results must be interpreted together with the medical history.
Who gets seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies affect people of all ages. Children of parents who are affected by allergies are more likely to be affected as well. Different climates have different allergies and will affect people differently.
How are outdoor allergies treated?
Treatment is determined on an individual basis as prescribed by your physician. Please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our allergy and asthma specialists.
Is there a cure for outdoor allergies?
There is no cure for outdoor allergies. However, most symptoms of allergic rhinitis can be treated and immunotherapy can provide long lasting reduction or elimination of symptoms.
What are the possible complications of outdoor allergies?
The most common complication of outdoor allergies is sinusitis.
How can I prevent developing outdoor allergies?
There is no known way to prevent developing these allergies.