Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson on December 04, 2014

Sources

Kathleen Sheerin MD, Allergist, Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic. WebMD Medical News: "Pets May Protect Children From Allergies." Platts-Mills, T.A.E. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, October 2002; vol 164: pp 1107-1108. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology web site: "Allergic Rhinitis." Mayo Clinic web site: "Allergy skin tests: Identify the sources of your sneezing."

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Video Transcript

Narrator: For many, allergies are a fact of life. …(sneeze?)

Woman getting shot: I'm allergic to grass, trees, pollen, mold…

Narrator: Nearly thirty six million Americans suffer from allergies and regardless of the season, anything from the family fur ball to your front lawn can lead to itchy eyes and runny noses.

Kathleen Sheerin, MD: Some people even complain of itchy ears. They'll start doing this…kinda what we call the allergic salute and often times that you can do it so much that you can get a crease on their nose. Nat up sneezing It is genetic. It runs in families—so if your mother and father is allergic, ahh, then you have a better chance of being allergic.

Narrator: You can't choose your parents but you can choose your remedies. Over-the- counter medications may help those with mild symptoms. Most will contain an antihistamine or decongestant to help clear things up, or a combination of the two. People with more persistent symptoms may require any of a host of prescription medicines. But don't forget the first line of defense….

Kathleen Sheerin, MD: The more you can avoid the better off you are: windows closed—keep the pollen outside. Wash the dog; don't let the dog bring the stuff inside.

Narrator: If that's not enough, being evaluated by a qualified allergist is a good next step.

Kathleen Sheerin, MD: These little circles. Little dark circles can sometimes mean either recurrent sinus infections or we call 'em allergic shiners

Narrator: One of the most reliable methods of determining allergic triggers is the skin test. Ok, hold it tight. Skin is checked for its reaction to things like pollen, mold, pet dander, foods, insect venom and penicillin. For most people the tiny pinpricks cause only temporary and mild discomfort. The other mainstay in the clinical arsenal is the allergy shot. You might be a candidate if you have symptoms more than three months out of the year. Doses of allergens are increased over several months until an appropriate regimen is achieved…then every few weeks for as long as five years. But for many who water, itch and sneeze, it's worth it.

Woman getting shot: Yes the shots help a lot because at one time I couldn't even sit out in the, you know, in the grass or the park or anything so it helps a lot.

Narrator: And this treatment can actually strengthen a person's defenses over time.

Kathleen Sheerin, MD: If you take shots for three to five years there's a good chance that you'll never need to take them again and your disease will be controlled for a lifetime.

Narrator: Leaving more time for you to do the things you enjoy most. For WebMD, I’m Damon Meharg.