As soon as the first dusting of yellow arrives in the spring, so does coughing, sneezing and itching. Seasonal allergies affect more than 50 million Americans each year, according to Hopkins Medicine, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. 

“Allergy is an autoimmune disorder where when you come in contact with various things, there’s a reaction that occurs in your body. And this reaction results in a little cell bursting open and releasing histamine,” said Dr. Andrea Williams, a doctor in West Columbia, who specializes in otolaryngology, the study of the disease of the ear, nose and throat. 

During allergy season, which peaks from March to May in the Midlands, many turn to over-the-counter drugs, such as Zyrtec and Allegra, to help minimize symptoms. Williams says that those using these medications around the clock need to be seen by a physician so their symptoms don’t turn into bigger health issues.

“Allergies can provoke other disorders or exacerbate them. So, for example, sinusitis – a lot of time the swelling from allergies results in obstruction of sinuses and can cause recurring infections,” Williams said. “Again, the swelling in the ear can block the estuation tube and cause recurrent ear infections.”

Lingering allergy symptoms lead to constant drainage causing, throat clearing, vocal cord nodules and itchy throat. According to Williams, controlling these symptoms controls other disorders.

Allergy shots and immunotherapy can be used to treat allergies and patients who suffer from severe allergies receive allergy shots weekly.

“I used to sit down in grass and get hives, and after I got the allergy shots, I’m pretty much fine,” said Rachel Wood, a student at the University of South Carolina.

Wood, a senior from Chicago, got allergy shots weekly for four years, and is currently training for a 10-K race. Once pollen starts to fall, she finds running outside difficult.

Watch your run-on sentences here: “My lungs will kind of constrict a little bit so I’ll feel a tightness in the chest, just because of the asthma and stuff, but usually I’ll take an inhaler when I run when the allergies are really bad,” Wood said.

A simple trip to the doctor’s office to learn what you’re allergic to can completely change a person’s life.

“Think about it,” Williams, the physician, said. “If you’re just under the weather because you’re not breathing well, you’re congested… you’re not functioning well. And if you’re not functioning to your full capacity, do you see how much you’re robbing your daily life, your quality of life.”