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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Allergists Predict Early Start for Allergy Season

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People with allergies have long known the weather conspires to make their symptoms better or worse each allergy season.

It has to do with a variety of factors. Humidity, early pollen blooms, mold and airborne irritants--all can help set off allergies, depending on what you are allergic to.

And when.

It is possible that a general warming of the climate is responsible for a potential early start to allergy season this year. Tracking climate change is big news and will continue to be an issue of scientific and political discussion for many years to come. But the fact of the matter is that average temperatures across the globe continue to rise. Whether you believe that is the result of natural causes such as sun cycles, or anthropogenic (manmade) causes such as CO2 density in the atmosphere, does not really matter if you suffer from allergies.

What matters is that you should prepare yourself for the potential of early arrival in your allergies, a possibly more intense overall season and a prolonged period of allergies at the end of the summer and fall--if first frosts don’t come along.

That means today’s allergy season commences around March 1st across much of North America. That’s when outdoor blooms typically begin in the south. And northern climes are not getting off so easy these days either. March 2012 saw temperatures rise into the 80s over much of the central-northern tier of the nation. Fruit trees and many other varieties of plants sprung into bloom, releasing pollens into the atmosphere that in turn can drift for miles until they hit your nose. Then boom, you’re sneezing and sniffling.

But don’t always assume allergies are the cause of your misery. Common colds also seem to bloom in early spring, and differentiating between your allergy symptoms and the common cold is important to begin treatment if you choose that route.

For common colds, there are products that treat early onset. These include zinc and echinacea, which are known to stifle the common cold virus to some degree.

For allergies, having a plan of prevention is not necessarily possible. But treating the symptoms and managing their degree of impact is often critical. Physicians often recommend starting your allergy medications before the allergy season actually begins. Having a “running start” can help prevent a sudden slam of allergy symptoms.

Not everyone responds to medicines the same. Some people become drowsy using medicines such as Benadryl. That can be a distraction at work and a danger on the road. Newer allergy medicines do not have the sleepy affect and are much better for people who are susceptible to becoming drowsy from older generation allergy medicines. In any case, a consultation with a physician is in order. There’s no sense experimenting without advice. That only leads to a confusion of symptoms when you’re trying to sort out best options for treatments. Better to have a plan in place and tweak it than trying to change horses in midstream.

It is important to recognize that the allergy season is not defined by some hard and fast set of rules that nature invokes to make you feel awful. Much depends on when certain types of hardwood trees come into bloom, for example. Already in 2013, the southeast has been hit by early blooms and allergy season kicks in right then.

But a cold snap can send it back into remission, only to come back even harder when the weather warms again and pollen counts rise to intense levels. It’s almost as if nature is tricking your body’s defenses with a short bout of allergies, weakening you against the curse, then letting up, only to come back with a wicked spell of pollen that lays you low in late March or Early April.

The simplest way to combat the dark side of Mother Nature is to do what your physician says and start your allergy medications before you really need them. That way nature can’t play allergy games with your head.

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