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Early Allergy Season Start

Mild temperatures this winter in some parts of the country has caused the spring allergy season to arrive a little early this year, which can be a headache for millions of allergy sufferers.

In the latest Healthwatch, The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay gives tips for the prevention and treatment of allergy symptoms.

Senay says warmer weather areas are being hit pretty hard right now, mostly due to pollen released from trees earlier than usual because of warm weather. Areas of California, Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama, to name a few, have gotten off to a bad start.

Not only is the season early, but, so far, it seems to be particularly harsh in some areas. The Northeast still have a few weeks before the allergies season starts. And it is still unsure of the severity of the allergy season. Allergy season usually starts the first week in March in warm weather states.

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Senay says there are some basic things those with allergies should remember to lessen the severity. First, don't dry your clothes outside on a clothesline. Pollen blowing around is going to stick to it and exacerbate your or your family members' allergies. You should make a habit of checking pollen counts daily, which many health Web sites offer. The days when the count is high, don't work in the garden. Leave the windows closed in your home and while you're driving in the car. If you have a pet, wipe their feet off and brush them out after they've been playing outside, because pollen sticks to them as well. And if you do garden or spend time outside, you should wash your hands, because if you rub your eyes with pollen on your hands, that's going to cause watery, itchy eyes.

For treatment, there are a lot of effective over the counter drugs available at the pharmacy, including Claritin, which used to be available only by prescription. Senay says some antihistamines and decongestants, however, cause drowsiness or other side effects in some people.

She says if you're taking other drugs that act as sedatives, avoid any over-the-counter medications that also have a sedative effect. Some of these drugs also raise blood pressure. If you don't find these drugs are working for you, or you are taking other prescription drugs that might react with these drugs, you should consult your doctor. There are very effective nasal sprays available by prescription only that are good for mild to moderate allergies. And severe allergy sufferers are often prescribed immunotherapy, or allergy shots.

Senay says you have to be careful with self-diagnosis of sinus headaches. Some people have been treating what they think are sinus headaches with antihistamines and decongestants. But, doctors are now finding that a lot of these people are actually suffering from migraines, which means allergy medications are not the way to treat them.

If you've been getting headaches and you're not finding relief from allergy medications, stop taking them and try and find a doctor who specializes in headaches.

Allergy season first starts with the pollination of trees, then in late spring/early summer grasses and weeds, and late summer there's ragweed. So, an early start probably won't mean an early finish to allergy season.

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