SATURDAY, March 10, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Letting pollen drift in through open windows and using the wrong air filter can contribute to allergy flare-ups in spring, experts say.
Some 35 million Americans suffer from sneezing, sniffling, stuffiness and itchy eyes due to spring allergies, according to experts from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
"People with spring allergies often don't realize how many things can aggravate their allergy symptoms, so they just muddle along and hope for an early end to the season," said Dr. Myron Zitt, former ACAAI president, in a college news release. "But there's no reason to suffer. A few simple adjustments in habits and treatment can make springtime much more enjoyable."
Allergists recommend allergy-sufferers keep their house and car windows closed so pollen can't drift in from outdoors. They also recommend making sure to use the right air filter. Inexpensive central-furnace or air-conditioning filters and ionic electrostatic room cleaners aren't helpful, the allergists said. Ionic electrostatic air filters release ions that can irritate allergies. And whole-house filtration systems can only be effective if the filters are changed regularly.
The experts also note that some people with seasonal allergies, particularly to grass or birch trees, may also suffer from allergies to closely related fruits, vegetables and nuts. About one in five people with grass allergies and as many as 70 percent of people with birch allergies have these cross-reactions, known as pollen food allergy syndrome.
People with allergies to birch or alder trees may experience tingling, itching and swelling around the mouth when they eat celery, cherries or apples. People with grass allergies sometimes find tomatoes, potatoes or peaches problematic.
Although often not serious, reactions to these foods can be life- threatening in a small percentage of people. A life-threatening allergic reaction is called anaphylactic shock, and high-risk people should carry a portable epinephrine pen.
Allergists also encourage people to take their medicine even before their symptoms flare, and to see an allergist who can suggest the best course of treatment.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology provides more information on seasonal allergies.