(BPT) -- Spring is in the air -- and that means pollen, mold spores and other airborne allergens are going to bring on sneezing and wheezing for an estimated 40 to 50 million Americans.
The spring season can be especially bothersome with so much conflicting information on how to find relief. To help you better understand spring allergies and combat symptoms this sneezing season, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), has answered some of the most frequently asked questions.
1. Why does it seem like more and more people have spring allergies?
This is likely due to increased awareness and more people taking the steps to being properly tested and diagnosed. According to a recent study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, pollen counts are gradually increasing every year, which can cause heightened symptoms.
2. Do spring allergy symptoms only last during the spring months?
The length of the season can help determine the severity of symptoms. For many areas of the country, spring allergies begin in February and last until the early summer. Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollenate early. A rainy spring can also promote rapid plant growth and lead to an increase in mold, causing symptoms to last well into the fall months. Allergists recommend starting medications to alleviate symptoms two weeks before they begin. If you have a history of prior seasonal problems, start your medication at the first sign of any symptoms.
3. Will eating local honey cure allergies?
A common myth is that eating a spoonful of local honey a day can build allergy immunity. The idea is that bees pick up pollen spores from flowers, transfer them to their honey and help you better tolerate pollen. Seasonal allergies are usually triggered by windborne pollen, not pollen spread by insects. There is no scientific evidence that honey will provide any benefit or reduce allergy symptoms. Your best bet? Talk to your allergist about ways to avoid allergy triggers, the best medications to treat symptoms and whether immunotherapy (allergy shots) could be beneficial.
4. Is there such a thing as spring asthma?
Allergies and asthma are often worse during different times of the year due to environmental allergens. An estimated 75 to 85 percent of asthma patients have allergies. These allergic responses in the lung can lead to symptoms of asthma. If you have spring allergies, this can be why you have more asthma symptoms during the season. Those that believe they may have symptoms of nasal allergy or asthma can find a free screening program in their area by visiting www.acaai.org/nasp.
5. Can you suddenly develop seasonal allergies in adulthood?
Yes. Although allergies are common in children, they can occur at any time and any age. Sometimes allergies go away, but they also can come back years later. If you suspect you have an allergy, you should keep track of your symptoms with MyNasalAllergyJournal.org and see an allergist to find relief.
"By understanding what allergens trigger your symptoms and how to avoid them, you can find relief from spring allergies this season," says Dr. Richard Weber, an allergist and ACAAI president. "An allergist can help you find the source of your suffering and stop it, not just treat the symptoms."
Allergies and asthma are serious diseases during every season of the year and that's nothing to sneeze at. Misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment can be dangerous. To learn more about these conditions, and locate an allergist in your area, visit www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.