Seasonal allergies are nothing to sneeze at. And that’s especially true when it comes to your heart.
Unlike colds, seasonal allergies usually last longer than a week or two. The symptoms of seasonal allergies are caused by a trigger (like ragweed or pollen) and can include:
Often, a skin test or allergen-specific blood test can help confirm which type of pollen you're allergic to.
But seasonal allergies can be a little more concerning if you have heart trouble. There has been at least one study that found a link between allergies and heart attacks, and the medications you take for your runny nose may also put you at higher risk.
Let’s take a look at when allergy season begins and how it can affect your heart.
According to the College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, spring allergies begin in February and last until the early summer in many areas of the United States. Season length and timing vary each year depending on the weather. In 2019 for example, due to a long, harsh winter, trees did not begin pollinating until March.
A 2016 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology looked at the relationship between airborne allergen concentrations and emergency room visits for heart attacks. The study took place in Ontario, Canada, from 2004-2011.
Results show that the risk of having a heart attack was 5.5% higher on days with the highest pollen levels compared to days with the lowest levels. Heart attack risk was highest in May and June when tree and grass pollen are most common.
Determining the extent of the direct connection between allergies and heart health is a topic that needs more research.
If you turn to over-the-counter decongestants for relief from your seasonal allergies and have heart problems — beware. They’re stimulants that can cause your blood pressure to increase.
So, if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or have high blood pressure, take some time to talk to your doctor before you take anything. Your doctor can recommend a proper dosage.
Your doctor (or allergist) can also help you find out what type of allergy you have and identify your triggers. This will allow you to reduce exposure and anticipate when to take medication.
One of the best ways to decrease the heart-health risks tied to seasonal allergies is by making the effort to reduce your cardiovascular risk factors. You can do this by eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting enough sleep. All of those things that are important for your overall health are still very important whether or not you have allergies.
Whether you have fall allergies or start sniffling and sneezing every spring and summer (as soon as there’s pollen in the air) there are ways to control your allergy symptoms. This, in turn, will also decrease any heart-related risks that may come along with your seasonal allergies.
You can bring up your seasonal allergy concerns with your doctor during your next regularly scheduled visit. Regular screenings are very important to good health and our guide “Midlife Health Screenings For Men and Women” can help you to determine which ones are right for you.