Allergy season nothing to sneeze at

Woman suffering from outdoor allergies

Spring is a beautiful time of year when all the flowers and trees are in bloom but for an allergy sufferer, it’s not a time to smell the roses. When you have allergies, you have a higher sensitivity to certain substances, so here are a few ideas to help ease your allergy worries.

The substances that often cause the reaction can include pollens, foods, or small organisms. Common signs of an allergy may include sneezing, itching, and skin rashes.

Worse news for people in these cities

In some cities, every year is a bad year for allergies. Below are the 10 worst cities in America for allergies. Several factors are considered when ranking these cities. These include pollen scores and number of allergy medicines used per patient. The rankings also include the number of board-certified allergists per patient.

According to the 2014 Spring Allergy Capitals report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the following are the top 10 cities with the worst allergy levels.

Top 10 worst cities for spring allergies

  1. Louisville, KY
  2. Memphis, Tenn
  3. Baton Rouge
  4. Oklahoma City
  5. Jackson, Miss.
  6. Chattanooga, Tenn.
  7. Dallas, TX
  8. Richmond, Va.
  9. Birmingham, Ala.
  10. McAllen, Texas

For the full list of Top 100 cities, go to AllergyCapitals.com.

For people with mild symptoms, Dr. Alan Rosenbaum, an ear, nose, and throat specialist in Knoxville, Tenn., recommends a saline nasal rinse. This treatment reduces the pollen load. It is an over-the-counter allergy product. People with more severe symptoms should see their doctor for prescription medicines.

What everyone can do to ease allergies

Shape magazine reports there may be good news for the worst cities for allergies. They talked with Dr. William Berger, one of the nation's leading experts on allergies and asthma.

When the pollen counts are at their highest, Berger has a few tips for people with allergies. First, do anything you can do to avoid exposure to the things you are allergic to. You can keep all your windows and doors shut. This will limit the amount of pollen and mold entering your home or your car.

Also, trees tend to pollinate in the morning. So try to plan your outdoor activities for later in the day. Berger also suggests taking a shower before bed. Clean your hair to remove the day's pollen and other allergens on your body. Vacuuming once or twice a week helps keep dust to a minimum, too, he says.

For more serious spring allergy cases people should see an allergist for treatments.

"Many patients will purchase antihistamines to treat symptoms," Berger said. "These medications can help with sneezing, running nose, itchy nose, and other symptoms," he said. Unfortunately, nasal congestion is not treated well by antihistamines. One way to treat allergy and cold symptoms is by using steam, a natural decongestant.

If these treatments do not help, there are intranasal antihistamines people can use. See an allergist to identify specific allergens. And treat your allergy symptoms if they continue, Berger said.

No matter what you do, it is important to take allergies seriously. They may be common, but allergies can lead to other health problems. These problems can be chronic sinus problems, nasal polyps, and ear problems. Allergies can also trigger asthma.

"An estimated 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to asthma each year in the U.S.," Berger said. "People should take their allergies seriously since they can have a serious effect on your asthma. See a doctor if you're not getting relief or your symptoms persists," he said.

9 ways to prevent allergies

Shape magazine offers some ways to help prevent allergies. Some are medicines. Some are natural. Try the one that works best for you.

  1. Nasal Gel

    Sticking gel up your nose does not sound very appealing. But Zicam makes an allergy relief gel that works well. It is not as targeted as a medicine like Benadryl. But nasal gel also does not have the sleepy side effects of antihistamines. The active ingredients a type of flower that helps your nose stop running.

  2. Head to the Beach

    There is one good thing about seasonal allergies. It is the perfect excuse to head to the water. Typically, beaches and other areas near the ocean have a lot less pollen. Beaches also have fewer molds. The reason is because ocean breezes help to clean the air.

  3. Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent

    Pollen and mold spores can collect on your clothes. So it is important to remove them so you don't have allergens in your house. First, shake out your clothing outside. Experts say this will get rid of a lot of the pollen. You can then wash with normal detergent plus a little bleach. Or you can use a specific anti-allergen detergent. Then, dry your clothes in a dryer. Hanging your clothes outside to dry makes them attract pollen.

  4. Pollen-Resistant Clothing

    Japanese clothing maker Sanyo has developed a pollen-resistant fabric that is used in making outerwear. According to the company, this new fabric blocks pollen from clinging to the coat. It also reduces allergic reactions. It is breathable and releases moisture from the body to keep you drier than ever. The fabric is called Microfit SX. It is also designed to be ultra silent and super soft.

  5. Allergy Mask

    Allergy masks with built-in HEPA filters are great for people with serious allergies. You don't need to wear one all the time to get the benefits. You should wear it when you mow the lawn, rake, or garden. It can go a long way in keeping symptoms to a minimum.

  6. Acupuncture

    Acupuncture has not been proven to reduce allergies. Acupuncture is a Chinese medical practice. For this practice, specific body areas are pierced with fine needles. But there is one promising study. Children who underwent a three-month course of acupuncture suffered from fewer minor allergy symptoms. So you may want to try acupuncture. Especially if your allergies are fairly mild and you want to stay away from medicine.

  7. Tart Cherry Juice

    One of the most delicious options for allergy prevention is a shot of tart cherry juice. Cherries are tasty and provide many health benefits. But cherry juice contains a compound called quercetin. Quercetin-containing foods like cherry concentrate may help reduce allergy symptoms. This fact comes from the University of Maryland Medical Center.

  8. Close Your Windows and Crank the AC

    If you are prone to allergies, you should keep windows closed. This keeps the pollen that causes allergies out of your home. Plus, experts say that using an air conditioner will help clean your home. It will also dehumidify the air.

  9. Knowledge is Power

    If you have watery eyes and an itchy nose, your first stop should be your computer. Check out the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's national allergy map. This site gives you the pollen and mold counts in your area. It also offers a meter for figuring out the threat level.

    This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor

Last updated April 2014

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