A vaccination record card and face mask on a table.

As trees and blossoms begin to bud, you may sneeze, while your eyes itch and nostrils drip.

Why, oh why? The answer is blowing in the wind.

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, affects 19.2 million American adults and 5.2 million kids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Christine Chen, MD, family physician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Alvin, has the low-down on why you may be suffering:

When do seasonal allergies occur and how long will they last?

You’re most likely to suffer when seasons change in the spring and fall, Dr. Chen says. That’s when leaves bud or drop—and pollen and molds appear along with them. “Some people suffer a week or two and are fine,” she says. “Others are unlucky and suffer for a couple of months.”

You can check the weather channel app for the day’s pollen count, she says “Usually, pollen is worse when weather warms up after a cold spell. Things start to bloom and release pollen, causing a wave of allergies.”

What are the most common pollens?

Tree, ragweed and goldenrod are the best-known culprits, she says.

What are the signs of a seasonal allergy?

Usually, your nose may run chronically with a clear, watery discharge, she says. You also may sneeze, your nose may be stuffy and your eyes may tear up. Plus your eyes, nose, ears and palate may itch. “Sometimes you may feel tired, too,” she adds.

How can you relieve symptoms?

Check with your doctor, who’s likely to suggest over-the-counter allergy medicines first, generally starting with a nasal corticosteroid spray.

If that fails, non-drowsy, long-acting antihistamines may help. But avoid decongestants if you have glaucoma, thyroid disease or high blood pressure, as they may worsen those ailments.

If your symptoms persist, your primary care physician may refer you to an allergist or immunologist. They may recommend leukotriene modifiers, also used for asthma. These medicines keep your lungs’ airways, or bronchial tubes, from narrowing. Relaxed airways are less likely to cause wheezing and asthma.

“If nothing works, an allergist may give you a series of shots. These contain small and gradually increasing doses of the substance to which you’re allergic,” Dr. Chen says. “The goal is to desensitize you, so your reaction isn’t as severe.”

Should you get an allergy test?

Allergy testing may be useful if you have tried multiple treatments, none of which have helped. Tests also can isolate a specific allergen so you could try to avoid it in your daily life.

Are allergies related to other conditions?

“People also may suffer asthma or eczema, both of which involve inflammation and allergic reactions,” Dr. Chen says. “Allergies tend to be worse in people who have those diseases.”

How common are seasonal allergies?

“They’re very common. Some people develop them in childhood, and others not until they’re older. It’s hard to predict.”

To find a primary care physician, click here.

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