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Get the Facts About Allergies

Watery eyes, stuffy nose, coughing and sneezing. For allergy sufferers, spring can wreak havoc and often trigger or worsen asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

The majority of spring respiratory problems come from inhaling allergens, such as pollens and mold spores, according to Dr. David Valacer, director of the Children's Allergy, Immunology and Respiratory Center at the Weill Cornell Medical Center of New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Valacer suggests the following tips for reducing the misery:

  • If you stay in air-conditioned areas, you may reduce your symptoms. But, be aware they will act up the moment you go outside and may remain with you the rest of the day.

  • Window-air-conditioning units do not filter out pollen or mold spores. HVAC systems harbor moisture, mold and dust. If you must use an air-conditioner, remember to keep it clean.

  • If you suffer from mild symptoms, over-the-counter antihistamines will help you for a few hours. Caution should be taken, since most of these drugs do cause drowsiness. Also, occasionally older men develop problems with urination when taking antihistamines.

  • If you need more relief, over-the-counter antihistamines combined with a decongestant also can relieve symptoms, but read the package for health warnings. People taking multiple medications, or who save other chronic medical problems like hypertension, should consult a physician.

  • If you are concerned about your symptoms or they are not relieved by the above, please see your physician. In almost all instances, these symptoms can be helped by identifying your specific allergic sensitivities and tailoring treatment measures to specific allergen avoidance and/or with prescription drugs, nasal sprays, eye drops, non-sedating antihistamines and/or allergy shots.

    Did You Know?

  • Allergies affect as many as 35 million people in the United States; 6 million of them are children, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

  • Allergies tend to run in families. If one parent is allergic, the child has a one in four chance of developing an allergy. If both parents are allergic, it is likely two out of three children will be allergic also.

  • Dr. Clemmens Von Pirquet, an Austrian physician, coined the term "allergy," meaning "altered reactivity" in the early 1900s.

  • French scientists have discovered a link between people's date of birth and their allergies. Individuals with grass pollen allergies are most likely to be born between January and May, while people with mold allergies are least likely to be born in April, May and December.

  • A sneeze can throw water droplets six feet into the air at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

  • The earliest clear description of what is today known as "hay fever" was written in 1565 by Botallus, a physician living in Padua, Italy.

  • When someone sneezes, we say "God bless you" in English. Here are some "bless you" equivalents from around the world:
  • Italian — "Salute!"
  • Spanish — "Salud!"
  • French — "A vos souhaits!"
  • Russian — "Boot-tyeh zdarovi"
  • Norwegian — "Velsigne du"
  • Chinese — "Dui-bu-qui"
  • Turkish — "Cok yasa"
  • Hindi — "Bhagvan apka bhala kare!"
  • Hawaiian — "Ho' omaika' I"
  • Dutch — "Zegenen jou"

    For more information, allergy sufferers can check out pollen forecasts for their local areas on the Allegra Web site at:

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