Seasonal allergies are the pits — the endless sneezing, watery eyes and itchy throat are just some of the allergies that can pop up as the seasons change. And, if you’re wondering why your allergies have been worse this year, it’s because this year’s pollen count is higher than last year’s, wreaking havoc on the sensitive sinuses of allergy sufferers.

In fact, seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, affects up to one in five Australians, says Dr Joseph Santos, registered GP and medical director at Rosemary Health. According to Dr Santos, this is caused “by our bodies’ response to small particles called allergens that are found around us, which we touch and breathe in.

“Common allergens include pollens, dust mites, moulds and animal dander. People can develop symptoms like sneezing, a congested nose, watery and itchy eyes when they come in contact with allergens they are sensitive to.”

It can be difficult to prevent allergies from flaring up full stop, given the presence of allergens both within your home and outside in the world. But, there are ways to reduce the impact of allergens, and while these won’t cure allergies completely, it’s the best way to manage them. These strategies include the regular cleaning of your home, the use of certain medications and desensitisation treatment — this helps reduce your sensitivity to these allergens.

“Allergy testing will help identify allergens and in some instances, people can undergo desensitisation treatment to reduce their reactions to triggers,” Dr Santos told POPSUGAR Australia.

“Keeping your home clean and washing bed linens can reduce dust mites and mould found inside our homes. Avoiding going outdoors on windy days, especially during periods of high pollen counts, will also help. There are also over-the-counter and prescription medicines that you can take to help reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis.”

Decongestant medications can help with congestion, while the use of nasal corticosteroid sprays can help reduce inflammation in the sinuses. The use of antihistamine medication can also temporarily reduce itchy eyes and sneezing.

Another common way to help with the management of seasonal allergies is through the use of air purifiers. But, as with the other treatments, an air purifier isn’t a silver bullet — you must use a variety of strategies to make a positive impact on your allergies.

“There is evidence that air purifiers can improve symptoms of allergic rhinitis indoors by reducing the amount of inhaled allergens,” said Dr Santos. “Unfortunately, it will not help with allergens that come in contact with our skin. Useful ways to reduce indoor allergens include opening windows to allow for better ventilation in moist rooms, washing bed linens and soft toys weekly in hot water and keeping your home clean (especially the kitchen, bathrooms and carpeted rooms).”

And, while you might think spring is the only time you experience a flare-up in these allergies, Dr Santos says that winter is also a common time to experience allergic rhinitis. “Although allergic rhinitis is usually associated with spring, it can occur all year round as different pollens are present in different seasons,” he said. “We see a spike in dust mite and mould allergies as well in winter due to people being indoors more often. Knowing the triggers to your allergy symptoms can help you prepare for seasonal changes.”

If you’re struggling with your seasonal allergies, talk to your GP about possible medications that might help.

(1)  https://www.allergy.org.au/allergic-rhinitis

(2)  https://allergyfacts.org.au/allergy-anaphylaxis/allergic-rhinitis-hayfever

(3)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7393300/

(4)  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27723364/

Dr Joseph Santos is a registered GP and medical director at Rosemary Health, a digital service connecting Australians to quality healthcare online. With over 15 years of experience, Dr Santos has an interest in men’s health issues ranging from everyday health to chronic conditions.