Springtime brings not just deliciously longer days, warmer weather, balmy breezes and blooming flowers. For people with allergies, it means the return of pollen. Pollen and allergies don't mix.
There's not much you can do to avoid pollen altogether -- after all, it's produced by grasses, trees, flowers and weeds -- but you can minimize the misery. Here's your springtime pollen survival guide.
Larissa Stouffer of Melrose, Mass., usually sneezes not once, not twice, but three times. She sneezes as she gets into a car if it's sunny outside, but not when it's cloudy; her dad does the same thing. And as soon as she pops some mint chewing gum into her mouth, out comes an achoo.
Stouffer, 30, isn't the only one with a fickle nose. Many people sneeze at peculiar moments -- such as after exercise, plucking their eyebrows, in the sunshine, or after sex.
Here are the reasons why they sneeze at...
Be realistic. "Complete avoidance of pollen is impractical," says Daniel Waggoner, MD, an allergist in Mystic, Conn., tells his patients. "In Connecticut, spring brings tree pollens. Late spring and summer brings grass pollens. Late summer and fall brings weed pollen."
"That in general holds true across the country," he says. However, if you travel south, some types of pollen may linger year round, with the warmer temperatures.
But there's a lot you can do to minimize the fallout from pollen -- from simple measures you can take around the house to seeing an allergist for treatment.
First, Know Your Pollen Count
Pollen is the invisible annoyance. The average pollen particle is smaller than the width of an average human hair, according to the American Academy of AllergyAsthma & Immunology.
But once pollen reaches your nose and throat, it can trigger an allergic reaction if you are the sensitive type. And about 35 million Americans are sensitive to pollen, according to National Institutes of Health estimates.
It's easy enough to check the pollen count in your locale through the National Allergy Bureau, a section of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, which maintains an online site for pollen counts.
Pollen counts calculate a given pollen in a specific amount of air during a particular period, such as 24 hours, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Ask your allergist exactly what you are allergic to, and when that pollen peaks, so you can be ready to take action before the pollen triggers bad allergic reactions, says Russell B. Leftwich, MD, an allergist in Nashville, Tenn.