Seasonal Allergies, Explained in Just 2 Minutes

Here’s what happens if your immune system thinks pollen is a trespasser.

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There’s no denying that all the blooming during spring beautifies your neighborhood, but those budding plants also come with pollen. For most people, that’s no biggie, but if you’ve got seasonal allergies, pollen is your personal nightmare.

Pollen is a dust-like substance from plants that travels by wind (and by animals) to fertilize other plants. While you can’t always see it, this microscopic powder can get in your airways. It’s generally harmless—yet for some people, their immune system mistakes pollen for a trespasser. This is what causes seasonal allergies.

When someone with allergies comes in contact with pollen, their immune system dispatches immune cells to the respiratory system to attack the “invader.” These immune cells release a chemical called histamine, which is what causes allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchiness in the eyes, nose, and throat.

Seasonal allergies are often associated with spring, but they can actually occur 365 days a year, since different plants pollinate at different times. Ragweed pollen is what gives the most people grief, and ragweed pollinates in the spring—hence all the sniffling in your office in April.

Treating seasonal allergies is twofold, often including both lifestyle changes and medications. Lifestyle changes for seasonal allergies involve monitoring pollen counts and showering after working outdoors. Additionally, meds like antihistamines can weed out symptoms.

Think you can just suffer through it each year? It might seem like it’s just a little extra snot (okay, a *lot* of extra snot), but untreated seasonal allergies can really wither your quality of life. See a doctor or an allergist for help kicking allergy symptoms to the bush.