After a long and snowy winter in several parts of the United States, spring has finally sprung. The weather is warming up and flowers are beginning to bloom. But for many individuals, those flowers mean runny noses and itchy eyes.
About 40 million people in the United States have an indoor or outdoor allergy, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Common allergies include grass and weed pollen, animal dander, mold spores and trees.
The bodies of most individuals do not react, but the immune systems of allergy sufferers see the allergen as an irritant resulting in an inflammation response, according to Robert Eitches, M.D., an allergy specialist. The symptoms of seasonal allergies result from the body trying to "fight" the allergen.
Having seasonal allergies can significantly impact sufferer's daily lives.
"I’m a long time allergy sufferer – spring pollen is one of my triggers," said Brooke Burke-Charvet, actress and co-host of Dancing with the Stars.
"Once the flowers start blooming my symptoms kick in: sneezing, runny nose, and worst of all the itchy, watery eyes. It slows me down as a mom. And while no one wants to experience these symptoms ... it can be really embarrassing when you’re on TV."
Dr. Eitches noted that young adults can be thrown off by seasonal allergies. They are not as productive at work, or end up having to miss work.
In a survey commissioned by Merck, 72 percent of adults with allergies reported that they do not feel like themselves when they are having symptoms.
The same survey found that 55 percent reported exercising less, 45 percent reported spending less time cleaning, and 37 percent reported having a reduced social life when experiencing symptoms.
Sleep is also affected by seasonal allergies. The survey found that 62 percent of allergy sufferers have disturbed sleep, resulting in recurrent fatigue.
And it is not just the allergy sufferers who have trouble with their sleep: Dr. Eitches noted that their spouses also lose a good night sleep because of the coughing and sneezing.
Allergy sufferers can do several things to reduce their exposure to allergy triggers.