Spring is in the air. That means pollen is in the air as well. For millions of allergy sufferers, this time of year is bittersweet. Along with mild weather and beautiful blossoms comes a host of allergy symptoms.  These symptoms range from mild sneezing or an itchy nose to constant runny nose and asthma attacks.

The most common causes of spring allergies in our area are trees, especially oak. These usually pollinate in the spring, followed by grasses in the late spring to early summer. However, this year we saw an early start to the spring allergy season and grass pollen is already being detected in considerable quantities. This is in part due to our very mild winter. Also, according to a representative of Texas Parks and Wildlife, last summer’s drought might affect this pollen season by causing the trees to alter their pollination patterns as a survival mechanism.

How can you tell if you have spring time allergies? People with allergies usually have one or more common symptoms. These include sneezing, runny nose, itchy, red or watery eyes or a feeling that there is drainage in the throat. Other symptoms that may be related to allergies include congested nose, sinus headaches, puffy eyes or persistent cough.

It may be helpful to determine what you are allergic to, as “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and you may be able to avoid some of the allergens that trigger your symptoms. Allergy testing is a simple in-clinic process that gives results within minutes. There are also blood tests to help determine what you may be allergic to.

Many mild allergy symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines. Several can cause drowsiness, but there are non-drowsy options available. For more troublesome or persistent symptoms, prescription nasal sprays and eye drops may be needed for relief.  Other options include allergy shots and steroids. People who have allergy-related asthma symptoms like wheezing or cough should always see a medical professional for appropriate care.

Although seasonal allergies can be a nuisance, they don’t have to stop you from enjoying your spring. With a little preparation, you can enjoy the outdoors despite allergies.

Contributed by Rana S. Bonds, MD, a clinician and faculty member in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Allergy and Immunology. Visit the division web site or patient care site.