There’s more to seasonal allergies than the sneezing, congestion, and itchy eyes that come with spring. Below, Elise Liu, MD, PhD, associate research scientist in medicine (immunology) and instructor in medicine (rheumatology), shares five interesting observations from her research.
1. Seasonal allergies differ across the country according to plant life.
“Sometimes people will have really bad symptoms in the Northeast, but then they might move across the country, say to Arizona, and their seasonal symptoms clear up,” Liu said. In the Northeast, common trees that can cause spring allergies include birch and oak.
2. Seasonal allergies may be starting sooner.
Because the earth is getting warmer, trees are starting to grow and pollinate earlier, Liu explained.
3. There is a connection between seasonal and food allergies.
The propensity to be allergic is in our genes, so often people who have one type of allergy can have another, according to Liu. “Beyond that, there's a specific condition called pollen food allergy syndrome, in which a person with pollen allergies reacts to similar proteins in certain fruits and vegetables,” she said.
4. There are non-pharmaceutical interventions doctors can advise when treating patients.
Ways to reduce exposure to pollen include showering, washing your face, and changing your clothes once you come inside from the outdoors, Liu said. Once inside, keep your windows shut.
5. Allergy shots can be used for seasonal as well as perennial allergies.
If primary care physicians find that their patients are having trouble getting their seasonal allergy symptoms under control, there are specialists who have other ways to maximize therapy. “Allergists are able to offer patients allergy shots, in which allergens—things that you're allergic to—are introduced slowly over time to help you build up a tolerance,” Liu said.
The Section of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology is dedicated to providing care for patients with rheumatic, allergic, and immunologic disorders; educating future generations of thought leaders in the field; and conducting research into fundamental questions of autoimmunity and immunology. To learn more about their work, visit Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology.