Allergy season starting right on schedule, are you ready? - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Allergy season starting right on schedule, are you ready?

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Allergies. It can be a dirty word when pollen levels spike, and it's something the Southeast is notorious for. Trees are blooming and many of us are sneezing. It happens every year, and every year we say it: This is the worst allergy season ever. I asked a local physician how this year stacks up and it turns out it's a pretty typical allergy season.

"Allergies are an abnormal immune response to harmless substances, like pollen or animal dander," says Dr. Joseph T. Inglefield, III with the Hickory Allergy and Asthma Clinic. "Allergies are really an overreaction to something the body sees as foreign and dangerous, turning on the arm of the immune system that fights off parasites."

"It's always a bad year if your allergies are triggered by the season." Instead of enjoying the warmer weather, roughly 20% of the population suffers through the Spring with symptoms that typically include hay fever or inflammation of nasal passages, but reactions to allergens can vary widely. Dr. Inglefield says that many patients can develop asthma, chronic sinus disease or even skin problems like hives and eczema.

During allergy season, the more common symptoms of watery eyes and a stuffy nose can be difficult to differentiate from infections. So how do you tell if you've got allergies or if it's something else? Even if you pay close attention to your symptoms, finding the cause can be tricky.

"It is hard to tell if you have an infection versus an allergy flare up," says Dr. Inglefield.  "If symptoms persist over 7 to 10 days it can be allergy. Sinus pressure and headache can be a sign of either a sinus infection or persistent allergy or rhinitis."

He says it's best to check with your health care provider, especially if your over the counter medications fail.  Allergy testing can help you and your doctor come up with a treatment for dealing with your allergies that may include medication or even allergy shots, which can make a big difference in the long term.

Treatments are available, and Dr. Inglefield says that many more patients may be seeking them in the future. "More older patients seem to be developing allergies than in the past. There is a prediction that pollen counts will double by 2040 due to earlier seasons and climate changes."

Spring season usually ends by June. In the fall pollens start as early as August and run until we have a frost.

For more information visit wheezy.com.

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