(Chester County Moms)

An estimated 36 million Americans are using their tissue boxes early this year as the warm weather has resulted in higher than normal tree pollen for this time of year. Spring's budding trees and blooming flowers mark another battle against sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and congestion for allergy sufferers.

Allergies are triggered by substances called allergens, such as pollen or mold spores. Many trees, grasses and weeds contain small and light pollen that are easily carried by the wind, causing allergy symptoms to flare up in the spring.

"One of the best ways to help prevent allergy attacks is to use the medication prescribed by your allergist when the allergy season begins," says allergist/immunologist Andrew Murphy, MD, FAAAAI. "With continued use of medication and avoidance of potential triggers, allergic symptoms can be minimized." For those with more persistent allergy symptoms, allergy vaccine therapy may be the solution.

In addition to timing medications, Dr. Murphy (on twitter @paallergy) offers the following tips to help allergy sufferers find some relief this spring:

  1. Do a thorough spring cleaning. Throughout the winter, windows, book shelves and air conditioning vents collect dust and mold that can provoke allergy symptoms.
  2. Minimize outdoor activity when pollen counts are high. Visit the National Allergy Bureau at www.aaaai.org/nab for pollen levels in your area.
  3. Take medications at least 30 minutes prior to outdoor activity. Consult an allergist/immunologist to ensure medications are helping you, and always report when reactions to medications occur.
  4. Shut windows in your house on days pollen counts are high. Avoid using windows or fans that may draw pollen inside.
  5. Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
  6. Dry laundry indoors. Sheets hanging on an outside line are an easy target for blowing pollen.
  7. Shower and wash your hair before bed. Pollen can collect on your hair and skin.
  8. Keep pets off of the furniture and out of the bedroom. Pollen can cling to the dog or cat after being outside.
  9. Keep car windows closed during peak season. Use air conditioning and point vents away from face.
  10. When mowing the lawn or gardening wear a filter mask.

Dr. Andrew Murphy is Allergy Chief at Chester County Hospital and Asthma, Allergy and Clinical Immunology of Chester County.

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