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Achoo!

If you live in Texas, like I do, you are probably more than aware that this Spring has been a terrible allergy season. Hopefully the rest of the country has been able to avoid the abundant amount of pollens, grasses, and molds that cause allergy symptoms that have been plaguing Texas over the past few weeks. But, if you are like many of us Texans and suffering from allergy symptoms, let’s learn a little more about what causes these seasonal reactions.

In the United States, spring allergy season usually runs from February to early summer as trees and plants transition from winter conditions to the warm summer weather. Additionally, a wet and rainy spring can encourage plant growth, increasing pollen counts and leading to a worse allergy season. However, there is also an allergy season in the later summer and fall as the weather transitions from warm to cool. Some regions have worse allergy symptoms than others. Apparently, Knoxville, Tennessee is the worse place in the US for spring allergies. Pollen is the biggest aggravator of seasonal allergies and every year, the pollen count continues to rise.

Some traditional medications for seasonal allergies include antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays and decongestants. According to the FDA, “Antihistamines reduce or block symptom-causing histamines and are available in many forms, including tablets and liquids.” Nasal steroids are usually sprayed into the nose to treat nasal inflammation. Decongestants are used to treat congestion symptoms. There are natural practices that can also be used to treat allergies, with some possible (although inconsistent) effectiveness. For instance, some probiotics may affect the immune system, including the body’s allergy response. Probiotics can be found in foods like kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, yogurt and kombucha. Another possible treatment is honey. The concept reasons that since honey contains small amounts of pollen, honey ingestion can help someone increase their tolerance of pollen. Thus, making them less sensitive to pollen and lessening their allergy symptoms. An alternative school of thought is that honey may have antihistamine or anti-inflammatory effects that can counteract your body’s histamine response. Congestion and runny nose can be managed with the use of a neti pot which rinses the nasal sinuses. However, it is important to use only filtered or sterile water in these devices. Improper use can lead to serious illness or possibly death. This was the case of a Louisiana man and woman who died from a brain eating amoeba infection in 2011 after using tap water in their neti pot.

For people who suffer from seasonal allergies, tracking pollen counts and knowing what types of grasses, trees, and pollens aggravate your symptoms can be a great help and indicator of your symptoms. On high pollen count days, it may be better to keep windows closed and stay inside. Additionally, if your allergies continue to progress for a long time, knowing what the allergy season is like in your area may help advise your decision to meet with your doctor to discuss additional symptom management. A great website to track pollen and allergy demographics in your area is pollen.com.

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