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Achoo! It Must Be Spring

Some tips on avoiding seasonal allergic rhinitis, otherwise known as hay fever

SATURDAY, April 5, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- With the arrival of spring, many people's thoughts turn to love. Others are too busy sneezing to think about romance.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis (most of us call it hay fever) affects about 35 million people in the United States, says the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI). Workplace absences caused by allergies cost U.S. companies more than $250 million a year.

Allergic rhinitis can be triggered by a variety of allergens. That includes pollen, which is abundant during the spring.

Instead of spending a pleasant day strolling through the park or doing other outdoor activities, people with hay fever are often forced to retreat indoors.

Here's why: When people with allergic rhinitis inhale allergens such as pollen, those allergens combine with an allergic antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). People with allergies have more IgE in their bodies than people who don't have allergies.

The combination of the allergen and IgE results in the body releasing chemicals, such as histamine, as it tries to fight off the allergen. It's those chemicals released by the body that result in those uncomfortable allergic symptoms -- nasal congestion, watery eyes, sneezing, itching and headaches.

The AAAI offers some tips on how to reduce your springtime hay fever misery:

  • Keep windows closed at night to prevent pollen from drifting into your home.
  • Keep your early morning outdoor activities to a minimum. That's when pollen is usually emitted by trees and plants.
  • Close your car windows.
  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are high and on windy days when pollen is being blown around.
  • Be sure to take medications prescribed by your allergist.
  • Don't hang bed sheets or clothing out to dry. They may collect pollen.

More information

The American Lung Association has more insight on hay fever.

SOURCE: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; American Lung Association
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