Cassandre Coyer The Charlotte Observer
Temperatures are warming up, cherry blossoms are blooming – in short, spring is here, and with it, allergy season too.
Allergies in general — whether to food, pets, or pollen — occur when the body’s immune system “sees a substance as harmful and overreacts to it,” according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
And that’s exactly what happens when pollen enters the body through the nose, eyes or mouth. The immune system mistakenly identifies it as a threat and triggers some of the well-known allergy symptoms: sneezing, runny nose and stuffiness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pollen causes various allergic reactions, such as hay fever symptoms, and affects about 60 million people in the United States each year, according to the CDC.
For about a third of people in the United States, pollen can also trigger “allergic conjunctivitis” which is inflammation of the lining of the eye. Some of the symptoms include “red, watery, or itchy eyes,” according to the agency.
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“Most of the pollen that causes allergic reactions comes from trees, grasses and weeds,” according to the AAFA. These plants make tiny grains of pollen that travel with the wind and enter through the eyes or nose.
“Flowering plants that spread their pollen by insects — such as roses and certain trees, such as cherry and pear trees — don’t usually cause allergic rhinitis,” the AAFA said.
What can you do to help your allergies?
Here are some ways to prevent allergic reactions to pollen, according to the AAFA:
Ideally, you should start taking allergy medication before the start of pollen season.
It’s best to limit time spent outdoors and keep windows closed when pollen counts are high.
When you are outside, wear sunglasses and cover your hair.
Shower daily before going to bed and wash bedding in “hot soapy water” weekly.
Change and wash clothes worn outside.
The foundation also recommends tracking pollen counts – or the amount of pollen in the air.
When is allergy season over?
Technically, it never really ends.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center, different allergy seasons span much of the year.
“Tree pollen season generally occurs in early spring in March, April and the first half of May, while grass pollen season generally extends from mid-May to early and mid- July,” allergist immunologist David M. Lang told the nonprofit. . “And ragweed season is usually mid-August until that first frost.”
But the length and intensity of the pollen season depends on your location and the weather.
Climate change has also lengthened the seasons and caused an increase in pollen counts, AAFA reported.
For this paid feature, Tucson Medical Center chooses topics from stories produced by professional Mayo Clinic reporters.