When spring arrives, so does outdoor pollen. The flowers bloom, the frost melts, and seasonal allergies make their despicable return. Looking out the window to the trees, weeds, and grasses - all while having itchy eyes and a runny nose - you might be tempted to simply curse pollen for those irritating symptoms and resign yourself to an increased tissue and antihistamine budget. However, it's often not just spring pollen that's causing that itchy throat and sneezing. In fact, up to 90 percent of people with allergies are allergic to multiple allergens.1
So guess what? It could actually be any number of allergens, from dust mites to pet dander, combining to trigger your symptoms. While you might assume it's pollen that's causing you pain, allergies just aren't that simple.
But you must know that, because you are here looking for answers. And boy do we have them for you. Join us as we break down five common seasonal allergy myths.
While it's true that there's an increase in pollen during spring, summer, and even into early fall, it's wrong to assume that pollen is the only allergic trigger, pop an antihistamine, and call it a day. Not only are you playing a guessing game with your body, you might be trying to treat symptoms without knowing what is causing them. That's a no-no.
"But Allergy Insider, my allergy symptoms always act up during the spring, and Instagram influencers also complain about their spring allergies, so that MUST be what it is." Maybe. Maybe not. Consider this: When you encounter multiple substances you're allergic to at the same time, they can add up, and that's when you'll start experiencing symptoms.2,3 This is called the "symptom threshold".
Think about your symptom threshold like the rim of an empty cup, and the different substances you're allergic to as liquids. A splash of pollen, a shot of pet dander, a scoop of dust mites, and the next thing you know, your cup is overflowing and your face is exploding. But, if you can modify this cursed cocktail by reducing exposure to one or two of those allergens, your cup might not overflow, which may mean no itchy eyes, no sneezing, and no repeated trips to the store for more antihistamines.
Obviously, we can't control nature (looking at you, Mr. Freeze). But there's a lot we can do to reduce exposure to sneaky indoor allergens that are just as capable of causing the sniffles.
Reducing exposure to one or two allergens that you can control (like pet dander or dust mites) could keep you below your threshold, even when spring pollen is in the air.
Examples of indoor allergens that you can help control exposure to:
Learn more about how to deal with allergies, including exposure reduction tips, from our resident allergist Dr. Lakiea Wright.
It's not just allergens that can cause allergy symptoms like itchy eyes, a runny nose, or sneezing. Non-allergic triggers can also cause allergy-like symptoms. Using a new cleaning product or being around cigarette smoke are a few examples of non-allergic triggers. It's possible that the symptoms you're experiencing could be due to a non-allergic trigger, and it's important to note that non-allergic triggers don't biologically work the same way as allergic triggers, so antihistamines won't help with relief. Some more examples include:
One of the most important actions you can take when, or even before your allergy symptoms start acting up is to get an allergy test. Testing will help your healthcare provider pinpoint your exact allergic sensitizations. You'll know precisely what is causing an allergic reaction, and the steps to take to reduce or avoid exposure to them. And guess what? Reducing exposure to those triggers can also help you manage symptoms - or even avoid them altogether. Win-win.
While you can't get an allergy test to determine those non-allergic triggers we talked about, you can use the process of elimination based on your test results. If your test results come back negative, and yet allergy-like symptoms persist, take a look at your environment and do what you can to avoid those non-allergic culprits.
We just told you some really cool facts about pollen, indoor allergies, and non-allergic triggers and what do to about them. The rest is up to you. Impress your friends, educate your healthcare provider, and walk around with your runny nose held high.
Oh, and get tested already. You can do so by asking your primary care provider about allergy blood testing, or at the options linked below.