Take your Claritin: Allergy season is ramping up at UConn

The types of allergens that are prevalent start off with trees and end with weeds, Eror said. (tdlucas5000/Flickr Creative Commons)

Allergy season, the time of year when pollen becomes the most prevalent in the air, is nigh, said Ellyssa Eror, Medical Director from the University of Connecticut’s Student Health Services.

UConn has typical allergy season for a Northeast location, Eror said. The allergy season generally lasts from March to October.

The types of allergens that are prevalent start off with trees and end with weeds, Eror said.

“Tree pollen from species such as maple, elm, ash and birch start being released in March,” Eror said. “Oak, sycamore, and black walnut follow in April, and grasses start releasing pollen in May. Most common species of weeds release pollen between May and September with a peak in July and August.”

The symptoms, no matter the allergen that triggers them, are caused by the body’s immune system response to the pollen, Eror said. People who do not experience seasonal allergies have immune systems that do not react when exposed to pollen.

“Typical allergy symptoms include sneezing, nasal congestion...a runny nose, itchy red eyes, sore throat or itching of the throat and ears and sleep disruption,” she said.

There are four main ways that allergy sufferers can treat their symptoms, Eror said, including nasal rinses, nasal sprays, antihistamines and decongestants.

A nasal rinse is done with a neti pot, a device similar to a tea pot, which helps the user pour sterile water into their nasal passage to clear out their sinuses, according to Healthline.

“Nasal rinses can be very effect in preventing allergy symptoms,” Eror said. “Rinsing with salt water can remove irritants from inside of your nose before they have a chance to stimulate [an] immune response.”

Over-the counter steroid nasal sprays can reduce swelling, congestion and post nasal drip, Eror said.

“They work best when used every day and can take [one to two] weeks to become fully effective,” Eror said. “Steroid nasal sprays are now available without a prescription.”

For additional medical remedies, antihistamines and decongestants can help, Eror said, with some side-effects.

“Antihistamines can help stop itching, sneezing [and] runny nose symptoms, but can make people feel tired,” Eror said. “Decongestants can help reduce nasal congestion, but should not be used if you have high blood pressure...Decongestant nasal sprays should not be used for more than three days in a row as they can make symptoms worse if used longer than that.”

For people for have more serious allergies, allergy shots could be a viable option, Eror said.

“Allergy shots are a long term therapy for people with severe allergy symptoms that cannot be controlled with other medication,” she said. “This treatment is prescribed and supervised by an allergist.”

If someone is not feeling symptoms right now, they may come later in the allergy season, Eror said. Symptoms can start building up one to two weeks before they get to their peak.

“If you are allergic to tree pollen, then your symptoms will likely start in March and resolve by June, she said. “ If you are allergic to the pollen from grasses, your symptoms may not start until mid-May into June and persist through the summer.... Many people can prevent symptoms by starting their medication [one to two] weeks their symptoms usually start.”


Rachel Philipson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.philipson@uconn.edu.