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.
Allergies affect more than 50 million people in the United States -- the poor souls who sniffle, sneeze, and get all clogged up when face to face with the allergen (or allergens) that set them off.
For many, allergies are seasonal and mild, requiring nothing more than getting extra tissue or taking a decongestant occasionally. For others, the allergy is to a known food, and as long as they avoid the food, no problem.
But for legions of others adults, allergies are so severe it interferes with...
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.