The Truth About Allergies

Ah, spring. The season of new grass, flowering trees—and watery eyes. Learning fact from fiction about seasonal allergies can help relieve the misery.

A tickle in your nose. An itch in your throat. A cough here, a sneeze there. Sore, red, watery eyes. You know the signs. It’s allergy season.

But seasonal allergies are more than just an annual nuisance. They occur when exposure to allergens causes your immune system to overreact and produce symptoms ranging from minor (a runny nose) to major (wheezing and shortness of breath). Think you know your seasonal allergies? Read on to find out.

TRUE OR FALSE: Allergies last for life.

False. “That is a common misconception,” explains Janna Tuck, MD, a spokeswoman for the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “But allergies do come and go.”

Allergies tend to first appear in childhood, she says. In that case, don’t expect to outgrow them. Conversely, you might not even experience allergies until you’re an adult, depending on when you’re first exposed to certain allergens.

But, as Tuck notes, allergies are more related to genetics and environment than age.
You have a 70 percent chance of having allergies if both your parents have allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. But since you can’t change your genetic code, the better option is to find out what you’re allergic to.

Then, you can find ways to alter your environment or discuss treatment options with your doctor.

TRUE OR FALSE: Allergies occur only in spring.

False. There’s not any one season for allergies.

In spring, people have to contend with pollen, a common allergen. But for people allergic to grass, summer is prime allergy season. Meanwhile, fall brings ragweed, and winter’s dampness can trigger mold allergies. Depending on your immune system, you could be affected by allergies for one season—or all year.

TRUE OR FALSE: Eating local honey helps prevent allergies.

False. Some experts say the theory behind this form of immunotherapy is sound—the idea being that the honey contains small amounts of local pollen, which can help the body become less sensitive to it.

“But there’s no scientific proof that eating local honey does anything,” Tuck says.

One reason, experts say, could be that the pollen that triggers allergies isn’t the same kind of pollen bees carry.

TRUE OR FALSE: Moving to the desert can alleviate allergies.

True—and false. If you’re allergic to pollen, you’ll be allergic to pollen anywhere. But if you move to the desert, where there’s less of the stuff in the air, you’ll likely experience an improvement in symptoms.

But beware, Tuck says. The desert is not an allergen-free environment, and you can find you’re allergic to something in the desert air, too.

TRUE OR FALSE: Lifestyle changes can relieve allergies.

True. Start with environmental changes. Staying inside on high-pollen-count days and keeping doors and windows closed can make a huge difference. A number of effective medication options are also available, Tuck says. And allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, can work as a long-term solution, gradually allowing your body to develop a tolerance to the allergen.

“For the most part, allergies and asthma aren’t life-threatening, but they do affect how people enjoy their lives,” she adds. “Good control of your symptoms can really make a difference in how you feel.”

 

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