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What you can do as allergies spring with the season

Brought to tears by springtime pollen? Allergy experts tell us how to minimize the problem.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — With Spring just having sprung, two things are certain - the weather will get a little warmer, and some of you will undergo a certain degree of discomfort as seasonal allergies begin. The Centers for Disease Control says nearly 1 in 3 adults suffer with some form of allergen; for children, that ratio is about 1 in 4.

For Katelyn Carpenter of Huntsville, her allergies have already begun to crop up. "My nose is running, my eyes are watering, like the whole shebang," she said.

Our recent run of alternating hot and cold weather hasn't helped.

Dr. Do-Yeon Cho, Associate Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says when the weather is very cool, the pollen counts are significantly lower.

"That's why you may not have a lot of allergy symptoms," Cho said, "but when the temperature goes up, it's going to happen in a day or so. You're going to have more symptoms because pollen counts are increasing."

Alabama Department of Public Health District Medical Officer Dr. Wes Stubblefield says there's no safe haven for those who are sensitive to pollen.

"It's almost unavoidable, if you're going outside," he said.

Dr. Cho agrees that even though you cannot control the outdoor environment, allergy sufferers can control their indoor environment.

"Just close your doors and close your windows," said Cho. 

When you go outside, simply wear a mask rated to block pollen and similar allergens.

"When you come inside.. change your clothes," Cho offered. "You can also wash your hair, because of a lot of pollen gets stuck in your hair."

Cho also said to be conscious of your pillows and pillowcases - another area where pollen can build. "Another thing you could do is [use] a sinus rinse. You can find those things over-the-counter; the water actually cleaning where the pollen sits inside of your nose. 

"If you have severe symptoms, you can also try some over-the-counter allergy medications like antihistamines or topical nasal spray," Cho continued. "I do not recommend using decongestants or any of the allergy medications with a 'D' on it because they may increase your blood pressures or increase your heart rate."

Michael Laws, another Huntsville resident, believes he's probably built up a little bit of immunity since he's lived in the area and been around our local allergens for so long. 

"I get them a little bit," he said, "but not too much."

Dr. Stubblefield says  if allergies are causing you any problems, there are ways to identify exactly what you are allergic to.

Allergy testing can be performed via a blood test or a skin-prick test; the latter is the most common form of allergy testing and involves placing small drops of allergen extracts on your skin. A needle then pricks the skin just underneath the drop; reactive allergens will develop redness or swelling within 15 minutes.

Blood tests are usually taken to verify and confirm the results of the skin-prick test.

Either test should be performed by a board-certified allergy and immunology specialist in consultation with your primary health provider.

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