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Anti-Allergy Campaign

Raise your allergy awareness and lower your suffering.

As fall turns to winter, and we start thinking nostalgically of spring, just remember that you'll be paying through the nose for those warm breezes and bright flowers. Every year, clouds of pollen descend on millions of Americans, preying on eyes, nose and throat. Before you begin playing your spring symphony of hacking, wheezing, and sniffling, think about doing things differently this year. It's never too early to start your seasonal allergy battle plan.

A 19th century doctor, John Bostock, associated the malaise with hay season, and came up with the "hay fever" theory. But it really has nothing to do with hay or fever. Allergic reactions occur when the immune system reacts to spores released in pollen or mold. Mistaking the particles for germs, the body starts producing antibodies through the nasal and eye tissues, which in turn releases histamines and soon starts a chain reaction of coughing and congestion. For 10 million of Americans every year, the symptoms are bad enough to warrant a doctor's visit. It's not something to trifle with.  Untreated allergies can cause ear infections, sinus infections, and asthma.

One way to fight allergies is to limit your exposure to pollen particles, especially in the home. You'll be tempted to open the house to the balmy spring air, but it's a better idea to keep your doors and windows shut, even at night. Keeping the house closed off reduces pollen particles to one-fifth of the ambient levels outside, according to experts. The same principle applies in the car. Roll up the windows, turn on the air conditioner, and push the setting to recirculate inside air rather than suck more outside pollen into the car. You may also want to run the air conditioner for a few minutes before getting in to get rid of any mold that collected in the A/C system.

Stay on mold patrol in the basement, too, by running the dehumidifier. It's not just pollen and mold, either, that cause misery, it's also man's best friend. Keep your dog bathed and brushed to reduce dander, and your cat well groomed. And keep them outside, if possible. Dust mites also cause allergies. They infiltrate carpets and bedding to find their disgusting meal--dead skin cells. To reduce dust mites, the most draconian yet necessary solution at times is removing carpet and switching to hardwood floors. Also remember to wash bedding in very hot water.

If you're passionate about keeping a well-groomed lawn, you may want to hang up the mowing for a while and hire someone to do it for you. Lawns collect mold and pollen that get blasted into the air by mowing and ingested into your lungs. If you must mow, you'll need to wear a face mask but find a mask that filters particles sized from 12 to 25 microns. The standard dust mask for woodworking doesn't do it. After you come in from outside, change your clothes and take a shower to wash the pollen off. Finally, avoid the worst offenders when choosing trees for your landscape plan. Oak, birch, ash and olive trees are the highest producers of pollen.

Sources used to create this article include Jeanine Barone and Better Homes and Gardens magazine.