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Mild Winter Brings Fierce Allergy Season to Stamford

STAMFORD, Conn. — Spring has sprung in Stamford. Breath it in — unless, of course, you suffer from seasonal allergies — in which case, you'll just have to take someone else's word for it.

Springtime allergy season typically arrives in early or late April in this part of the country. But the unusually mild winter means an early beginning to stuffy noses and itchy eyes.

“People will suffer for a longer time, and it will be worse,” said Dr. Paul Lindner, whose positions include director of the Allergy and Asthma Center of Stamford and director of allergy and immunization of Stamford Hospital . He has already seen many patients who are complaining of seasonal allergy symptoms much earlier than usual.

Allergy sufferers might be miserable in the springtime, but they're far from alone. According to the National Center for Health Statistics , about 26 million Americans endure chronic seasonal allergies.

Allergic reactions are the body's response to an invasion. When your interior sentries detect foreign substances, or antigens, the immune system is triggered. Its antibodies attack the allergen, which leads to the release of histamines , which trigger allergy symptoms.

Allergens responsible for early spring afflictions begin with tree pollens, which are released as buds develop into leaves. Pollens typically – and this winter has been far from typical – become a factor at the start of April and grass pollens follow around mid-May.

But what's the difference between an early spring allergic condition and a late winter cold? Colds usually last five to seven days and can be accompanied by fever, body aches and other symptoms. People experiencing persistent cold-like respiratory symptoms — without fever and body aches — might be suffering from allergies.

In addition to congestion and coughing, allergy symptoms can include sneezing, itchy and/or watery eyes, runny nose and postnasal drip, sinus pain such as headaches and itchy, stuffy ears. But allergy symptoms can also manifest as eczema, hives and other skin rashes.

Sufferers with intermittent or occasional symptoms should consider seeking relief from over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines, salt-water nasal rinses and eye drops. If symptoms are more persistent — and if they interfere with regular activities or quality of life – sufferers should see an allergist.

But steering clear of the irritants that affect you is the best line of defense. In other words, don't bring the outdoors indoors with you. Wipe your feet before walking into your home so you don't track pollen in. Immediately taking off and washing clothes is also helpful in reducing allergens, as is closing windows when the pollen count is particularly high.

When over-the-counter medication and household mitigation don't keep the antigens at bay, available treatments include preseasonal allergy drops, a form of immunotherapy wherein drops of allergen extracts are placed under the tongue. Like standard allergy shots, such courses of action can treat acute symptoms, as well as prevent further recurrences of allergies.

Before your wave your white tissue in surrender to allergies, take action. Then, think spring.

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