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Allergy season is coming

Sneezing yet? Oh, you probably will be soon! And if you suffer from allergies, youll probably recall that spring allergy season hit pretty hard last year. According to experts at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the amount of pollen floating in the air last season was about four times greater than what most consider to be high levels. In effect, many people who normally wouldn't even notice the change of season experienced watery eyes and sneezing. That meant allergy sufferers who were all too familiar with the perils of high pollen counts were forced indoors. Many may have even had to give up going for walks in the park or a attending their sons or daughters softball game because of all the sneezing, stuffiness and general misery associated with allergies. The question - will pollen counts will be high again this year or will they settle back into what is considered to be a normal range - remains to be answered. Weather conditions such as wind have a large impact on pollen counts, which makes it difficult to predict this for more than a few days in advance. According to Gillian Shepherd, M.D., chair of the Education Sub-Committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology(AAAAI), on windy days, or after high winds, pollen counts are high because the pollen has been spread throughout the air. Following a good rain, the counts drop as the rain washes the pollen away. High pollen counts do affect numerous types of allergies, including eye allergies (conjunctivitis) and skin reactions (dermatitis), but the most common spring allergy is allergic rhinitis - commonly known as hay fever. Hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, affects some 35 million people in the United States and is triggered by allergens, which are substances that initiate an allergic response, such as pollens or molds. Those who suffer from allergic rhinitis inhale the allergens, and then they combine with an allergic antibody called immunolgolbulin E (IgE). While this antibody is normally present at very low levels, IgE is found in larger quantities in people who have allergies. When the allergen and the IgE combine in the lining of the nose or eyes, the result is the release of chemicals, including histamine. These chemicals cause the allergic symptoms of sneezing, itching, watery eyes, nasal congestion or headaches as the body tries to fight off the foreign allergen, according to Shepherd of AAAAI.

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