Allergists offer tools, tips to curb spring allergies

Published On: Mar 19 2012 12:15:03 PM PDT   Updated On: Apr 09 2012 01:59:26 PM PDT
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(NewsUSA) - Nearly 40 million Americans sniffle and sneeze as spring approaches and cold weather is swapped for pollen from trees, grass and weeds.

Symptoms of spring nasal allergies, or hay fever, can include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. The allergies also can trigger an asthma attack -- wheezing, a tight feeling in the chest, difficulty breathing or coughing.

"If your symptoms interfere with your life, it's important to see an allergist," said Richard Gower, M.D., president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). "Allergies are serious diseases, but with tests we can uncover the source of your suffering and develop a plan to treat it."

Tips to keep pollen at bay include staying inside with the windows closed, wearing a mask outdoors, and washing pollen out of your hair when you come inside. However, these techniques may impede your springtime plans and, until you confirm what triggers your allergies, they might not bring relief. Many allergens persist year-round and can be rampant indoors: pet dander, dust and mold, to name a few.

ACAAI and allergists across the country have joined together to help you nip allergies in the bud. Studies indicate they're doing just that: a recent survey of allergy and asthma sufferers found that people who saw an allergist -- a doctor trained in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies and asthma -- were nearly three times more likely to deem their treatment effective than those who took over-the-counter medicine.

Treatment often includes medications, allergy shots to gradually build your tolerance for the substances to which you are allergic and avoiding your allergy triggers.

Unlike medications that stop working when you stop taking them, allergy shots, or "immunotherapy," are the only treatment that may provide long-term relief and prevent allergic asthma. Allergy shots have proven particularly effective in reducing symptoms related to grass, trees, pollen, dust mites, pets, stinging insects and certain types of mold.