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Allergy season is ramping up

Allergy sufferers beware, the Jackson area was just named no. 1 on the Allergy Capitals list by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and the same conditions apply to Vicksburg.

The Southeastern United States appears to fare the worst, thanks to a combination of warm weather and pollen counts. Jackson tops the list followed in short order by Memphis, Tenn., Little Rock, Ark., Baton Rouge and New Orleans all in the top 15 worst cities to live for allergy sufferers.

There are more than 45 million Americans who have pollen and/or grass allergies, no region is really safe from the season, Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York and an ambassador for the AAFA, told weather.com. One in five people has the “allergic gene,” which means that even if you move away from a pollen-heavy area, you’ll develop new allergies in your new hometown after a couple of years, he added.

The real takeaway from the list, Dr. Bassett continued, is to be proactive about your allergies, no matter where you live. “Have your plan in place,” he said. “Be on allergy alert. Start your medication up to two weeks ahead of time …. There are a lot of early and mid-season symptoms that drive people crazy.”

A little rain last week brought some relief to allergy sufferers, but don’t pack away the tissues.

The rain knocked pollen from the air and the pollen count dropped slightly, but it’s going to make things grow again.

Trees causing the most reactions right now are oak, elm, birch, pecan and sweet gum. Trees like pine, which produce large visible pollen that clumps on cars and the ground, are a boon for the car wash business but are not a major cause of allergies, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Rising allergy misery is a trend that’s set to continue, thanks to climate change, Dr. Bassett said.

First of the all, the season lasts longer; fall allergy season extends as much as four weeks past the pattern of a few decades ago, he said.

“The pollen is also directly affected by greenhouse gases,” Dr. Bassett said, noting that studies have shown that rising CO2 levels cause plants to produce more pollen, and pollen that’s more potent than ever before.

“It’s a double whammy — longer pollen season, as well as the fact that the pollen itself may be more super-charged,” Bassett said.

After the tree pollen look for pollen from Bermuda, Johnson, rye and Bahia grasses to fill the air.

Seasonal allergies can be expensive to control. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, from 2000 to 2005, the cost of treating seasonal allergies nearly doubled from $6.1 billion to $11.2 billion. More than half of that was spent on prescription and over-the-counter medications.

There’s no way to avoid pollen in the spring, but there are ways to reduce allergy symptoms.

With allergists predicting a more intense allergy season than usual this year, it makes sense to take steps to reduce allergy symptoms in your home. Here are some easy things you can do around the house to increase your family’s comfort – not only now, but all summer long.

• Keep windows closed. As much as you may love the new warm temperatures, keeping your windows shut will help keep pollens out. Start your air conditioning system earlier in the season.

• Clean and vacuum often. Mop hard surface floors and vacuum your home often to help minimize dust mites, one of the most common allergens. Wash bedding in hot water (130 degrees F), and use washable throws and curtains.

• Combat mold. Mold spores can cause hay fever symptoms. Repair and replace missing grout, leaky faucets and pipes. Use a mold-proof shower curtain, and wipe shower stalls and tub toys dry after using them.

Plants also sometimes carry mold and pollen, so limit the number of plants indoors. Enjoy the season’s colorful blooms on your deck or in the backyard instead.

• Control humidity. Controlling the moisture content in your indoor air is an added measure you can take to discourage mold growth and minimize dust mites. Having a humidifier or variable-speed technology as part of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system can help control your humidity, and your indoor air.

• Schedule an HVAC tune-up. Allergy season is an ideal time to have your HVAC system inspected to ensure it’s working properly. A dealer can also advise you on how a whole-home air filtration system, such as the AccuClean(TM) from American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning, can catch up to 99.98 percent of allergens from your home’s filtered air — including dust, dander, pollen and bacteria — so everyone in the home can breathe easier without compromising comfort. To find an independent dealer near you, visit www.americanstandardair.com.

• Reduce pet dander. Regardless of the season, pets such as cats, dogs and birds shed pet dander, which can also cause allergic reactions. One of the simplest ways to minimize exposure to pet dander is to keep your pet out of your bedroom. Be sure to wash your bedding weekly, at a minimum, to reduce the amount of pet dander that will inevitably be tracked into your bedroom.

These steps can improve the quality of the air inside your home and help reduce allergy symptoms. So while it may be allergy season outside, inside you will be breathing cleaner and clearer air.