Sneezin' Season

If you suffer from summer allergies, take heart: There are many ways to find relief.
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As beautiful as springtime is, many people with allergies breathe a sigh of relief when summer arrives. But some don’t get a respite from the sneezing and itchy eyes. Trees typically release pollen from March to June. Once they die down, grass pollen becomes prevalent, causing difficulty for many come July and August. “From mid-August to October, allergies are sparked by ragweed,” says Sharon Yee, M.D., an allergist and immunologist at Westwood-based Allergy and Asthma Consultants of Rockland and Bergen. Another common allergen are outdoor molds, which grow when it’s warm and damp, such as on humid summer afternoons.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, affects more than 35 million Americans, making it one of the most common chronic diseases, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI). “A seasonal allergy is a reaction to a specific trigger that is present only at a certain time of the year,” says Dr. Yee. Symptoms include sneezing, nasal congestion or a runny nose, a scratchy throat, red or runny eyes and itchiness of the ears, eyes and nose. 


To feel your best, limit your exposure to pollen. Monitor pollen and mold counts by tuning into your local weather channel or checking out the National Allergy Bureau website. On high-pollen days, stay inside with the windows shut and the air conditioning on. Trees, grasses and weeds generally emit pollen from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., so consider postponing outdoor activities until the afternoon. 

If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, consider medication:

  • Antihistamines: Available by prescription or over the counter, these pills and nasal sprays are effective for relieving itching and sneezing but not a runny nose.
  • Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists: These drugs relieve sneezing and itching and can clear nasal congestion. They also help prevent asthma.
  • Intranasal steroids: These medications are highly effective and don’t cause the side effects associated with other steroid medications, such as weight gain.
  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots): These shots, which contain enough of a specific allergen to stimulate the immune system, are very effective but must be given for three to five years. 
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