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Seasonal Allergies: Fighting Spring Allergies

Seasonal allergic rhinitis, spring allergies, is one of the most common allergic conditions in the United States, affecting 35.9 million people. This condition is responsible for approximately 16.7 million office visits to health care providers each year, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). In recognition of National Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month, Paul V. Williams, MD, and Fellow of the AAAAI, answers common questions about spring allergies. Dr. Williams is an allergist/immunologist at the Northwest Asthma and Allergy Center in Mount Vernon, WA.

Q: I love to garden but my allergies make my eyes water and I begin sneezing. What tips can you give me so I can continue my hobby?
You may be able to adjust your gardening schedule to help your allergies. Different pollens are released at different times of the day, by avoiding the peak pollen release times; you may be able to reduce your symptoms. An allergist/immunologist can help you deal with your symptoms in other ways as well, including medications and immunotherapy.

Q: My family likes to travel over the summer, what tips are there for traveling with allergies?
Be prepared to treat or prevent allergy symptoms by having medications available or by starting preventative medications before you leave. Close your windows and use the air conditioner to help keep out pollen and mold spores. Outdoor air pollution can worsen allergy symptoms; to avoid this, plan biking or hiking in the early morning or at night when the air quality is better. Before beginning a lengthy car trip, turn on the air conditioner or heater and open the windows for 10 minutes to help remove dust mites and/or molds that may be in the system.

Q: How can I find out what the pollen levels are in my area?
The National Allergy Bureau (NAB) has approximately 75 certified pollen counting stations throughout the United States; consult their Web site, www.aaaai.org/nab, for your location. Many of the pollen counting stations give their pollen counts to local newspapers or TV stations for broadcast or publication also. The NAB currently provides the most accurate and reliable pollen and mold counts by using air sampling equipment to collect airborne pollen and spores.

Q: When does the spring allergy season end?
Allergy seasons vary throughout the country. In general terms, early spring is the time for tree pollens. Grass pollen usually is present in the late spring, early summer, and weed pollens are present in the late summer and early fall. In warmer climates, each of these seasons may start earlier; vice versa for colder climates. Some parts of the country have less weed pollens than others, so their prime pollen season may end earlier.

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