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Pollen and Allergy Relief

Here's some allergy relief.
By
WebMD Feature

Need some allergy relief? If you have allergies, you know that you can run, but you can't hide from seasonal pollen.

With the first deep breath of spring, more than 50 million Americans begin their nearly year-round symptoms of sneezing, wheezing, coughing, snorting, and itching. And millions of allergy sufferers seek allergy relief in prescription medications that cost $6 billion dollars per year worldwide.

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Let's be honest. If the miserable symptoms of pollen allergies don't push you over the edge, some allergy relief medicines can.  Sure, some older allergy relief medicines ease your symptoms, but they can also leave you feeling sluggish, sleepy, and unable to concentrate at work or school.

So how can something as miniscule as pollen make you feel absolutely awful? And where do you turn for effective allergy relief when you're plagued by weeks of impenetrable pollen?

What Is Pollen Anyway?

To know what you're up against, it's important to know something about pollen. Pollen, the microscopic powdery granules of flowering plants, is the mechanism for the fertilization of trees, grasses, and weeds. 

While pollen from plants with bright flowers like roses rarely trigger allergy symptoms, the tiny, dry pollens from grasses, trees, and weeds are the main allergy culprits. Even though your yard may have no true pollen offenders, pollen particulates blow in the wind. For example, one ragweed plant can produce up to 1 billion pollen grains, and each grain can travel more than 100 miles from its source.

Every plant has a specific period of pollination. Although weather changes can determine the pollen count in the air, the pollinating season stays constant with trees pollinating first during springtime, grasses pollinating from late spring to midsummer, and then weeds pollinating in late summer and early fall.

Need Allergy Relief When Pollen Counts Are High?

The best way to get allergy relief is to take allergy medicines on a regular basis and start before pollen season hits, says William E. Berger, MD, MBA, professor of medicine at the University of California, Irvine.  Berger is past president of the American College of Allergy and Immunology and author of Allergies and Asthma for Dummies.

In the body, histamines are chemicals that can cause swelling, sneezing, itching and a runny drippy nose or postnasal drip (mucus down the back of your throat).  Antihistamines (allergy relief medicines) are effective in treating some of the allergy symptoms caused by histamines.

Berger tells WebMD that the goal is to prevent allergy symptoms from occurring. "Taking allergy medicines (antihistamines) regularly blocks the histamine receptors -- the tissues that cause swelling. Histamine works by attaching itself to these receptors on the surface of cells. If you block the site where histamine works by pre-treating with allergy medicines, you prevent the allergic reaction and the allergy symptoms."

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