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Sneezing Your Way Through Allergy Season

Allergy Triggers

The Spring Allergy Triggers: Pollens and Molds

Each spring, summer and fall, tiny particles are released from trees, weeds and grasses. These particles, known as pollen, can hitch rides on air currents and travel 400 miles. Some plants are so good at giving off pollen that a single ragweed plant can generate more than 1 million grains of pollen a day. What's more, each plant has its own pollinating period.

Because of these variables, it makes sense to be aware of the pollen count, which measures how much pollen is in the air during a 24-hour period in a specific area at a certain time. The pollen count tends to be highest in the morning on warm, dry and breezy days, and lowest on wet, cool and chilly days. The pollen season tends to end with the first frost.

Unfortunately, because mold can withstand frost, folks who are allergic to mold can suffer with symptoms from spring through late fall. Molds are members of the fungus family and can be found wherever there is moisture and oxygen. The seeds from the fungus family are called spores, which can give rise to new mold growth and more spores. When inhaled, these spores can cause an allergic runny nose and may even reach the lungs. Outdoor mold spores are abundant in soil, rotting wood and leaves. Even though there are many different types of molds, only a few can cause allergies.

The Dust-Mite Dilemma

Dust mites are microscopic organisms that live in the dust found in homes, workplaces and even your mother-in-law's clean and sparkling dining room. House dust is made up of many substances, including fibers from fabrics (especially those nice curtains), cotton lint, feathers, dander from pets, bacteria, mold and fungus spores, bits of plants and insects, and even particles from the food you ate last Tuesday.

Mites tend to live in bedding, upholstered furniture and carpets. They love the summer and die in the winter, except of course in a warm and humid house, where they continue to be unwanted and nonpaying guests. Their waste products, which are proteins, are responsible for provoking allergic reactions.

OK. Don't panic. There's help. I'm going to tell you how to get tested for allergies, how to lessen your chance of a reaction, and how to avoid becoming Sneezy, Dopey and Sleepy (I don't know if we can help old Grumpy, but we'll try).