Seasonal Allergies Program

Seasonal allergies are allergic responses of your respiratory system to breathing in pollens that are given off by trees, grasses and weeds.  Pollens, which look like microscopic balloons float great distances in the wind. Mold spores can also cause seasonal symptoms usually in the late summer and fall.

Typical season allergy patterns:

  • Tree pollen is usually in the air from March to June.
  • Grasses start to pollinate and give off pollen into the air in early June and continue into the summer.
  • Weeds give off pollen in the late summer and early fall, when outdoor mold can also be a problem.

Because plants and trees that cause allergy depend on the wind for pollination rather than insects, they often give off pollen that is both colorless and odorless.

The symptoms of seasonal allergies can be quite variable including sneezing, eye itching and running, nasal congestion, asthma symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and cough.

The major complications of summer allergies consist of sinus and ear infections, caused by swelling in the nasal membranes that impede drainage from these areas. Persistent pain in the sinus area or ears is a major symptom of this. Asthma is a much more serious form of allergy and requires prompt attention if it occurs.

How are allergies diagnosed?

The skilled doctors in the Division of Allergy at Tufts Medical Center will usually do skin testing for diagnosis of seasonal allergies. During this testing, we make a small puncture on your skin using extracts from pollens or molds that will cause a local red itchy reaction on the skin if you are allergic.  A blood test can also be done which measures IgE antibody to specific allergens.  Your physician will decide which is the more appropriate test to diagnose your allergies.

How are allergies treated?

Antihistamines are the major over-the-counter treatment for seasonal allergies.  Some antihistamines are sedative and they vary a lot in potency.  Over-the-counter antihistamines are frequently combined with a decongestant (pseudoephedrine) which can have a bothersome stimulant side effect.  Many over-the-counter nasal sprays are available but the vasoncontrictor category should be avoided because they can cause nasal congestion on continued use.

Your physician can prescribe additional effective medications such as cortisone containing nasal sprays.  If asthma is part of your seasonal allergy then various inhalers can be used.  For the most severe allergies a course of allergy shots or desensitization injections can be given; this is a long term treatment that needs to be continued over a number of years.

To make an appointment to meet with one of our expert doctors for a seasonal allergy diagnosis or treatment plan, please call 617-636-5333.