The Sweet Spring Challenge: Seasonal Allergies

The blessings of spring get mixed reviews from the estimated 35 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies. It's not easy to appreciate the miracles of nature through itchy eyes, runny nose, and uncontrollable sneezing. "

But what actually causes seasonal allergies? And which allergens are the worst offenders? Dr. Gillian Shepard is a clinical associate professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Below, she talks about the arch nemesis of carefree springtime...the seasonal allergy.

What are "seasonal allergies"?
People with seasonal allergies are allergic to something that's in the air for just part of the year. People are often allergic to the pollen of trees in the springtime, for example, and the allergy only occurs when the trees produce their flowers and pollen, which lasts for several weeks in most places.

Some very common seasonal allergies are triggered by tree pollen in the springtime, grass in the spring through summer and then ragweed and other weed pollens in the fall.

Which trees cause the worst seasonal allergies?
Almost any tree is capable of inducing allergic reaction if you're programmed that way. In different parts of the country, people will react to different trees depending on what's there. For example, on the east coast, it is very common to be allergic to birch, oak and maple tree pollen. If you go to the western states, you may find that the cottonwood, poplar, and aspen trees are much more of a problem.

And of course the area where you live will determine when you have a problem. It takes from around February to the end of May for the tree pollen season to work its way up from Florida up through Maine. Allergy sufferers should be careful not to plan trips that take them in the direction of the tree pollen.

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