Get Healthy: Snifflin’ and sneezin’ ... it’s allergy season

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

If you are like many in Carson City, springtime is bittersweet. Sweet because the warmer weather brings beautiful spring blooms and, for a short time, the landscape around our high-desert home is green. Bitter because with all that beauty comes the first wave of itchy eyes, runny noses and headaches for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever.

Pollen is one of the most common things that can cause an allergy. These tiny grains are produced by plants for fertilization, and are carried from plant to plant through the air. The combination of newly emerging plants and strong Nevada winds makes this prime time for allergies.

More than 50 million Americans suffer from some type of allergy each year. These include seasonal and food allergies, as well as allergies to substances such as medication.

Allergies are an overreaction of the body’s immune system to substances, called allergens, that generally do not affect other people. Allergens can cause the bothersome symptoms of sneezing, coughing and itching that many of us experience this time of year, as well as rashes, dry eyes and other symptoms. Allergic reactions range from bothersome to life-threatening.

Allergies generally cannot be prevented, but the symptoms can be treated. Once people know they are allergic to a certain substance, they can avoid contact with the allergen. Strategies for doing this include being in an air-conditioned environment during peak hay-fever season, avoiding certain foods and eliminating other triggers such as dust mites and animal dander. They also can reduce or eliminate the symptoms. Strategies include taking medication to counteract reactions or minimize symptoms and being immunized with allergy injection therapy.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, a pollen count can be useful. Often reported by weather forecasters or online weather sites, the pollen count measures how much pollen is in the air. Pollen counts tend to be the highest early in the morning on warm, dry, breezy days and the lowest during chilly, wet periods. Although the pollen count changes, it is useful as a guide for when it might be wise for you to stay indoors and avoid contact with pollen.

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