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Stop Your Sneezing

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We shed some light on five seasonal allergy myths

Have you ever heard people say they can't mow the lawn because they're allergic to cut grass? Did you automatically assume they were fibbing and really allergic to manual labor instead? You're not alone.

Many myths swirl around the topic of seasonal allergies. We asked NCH allergists to help us clear the air. Here are four myths we'd like to set straight, along with one truth.

1. Only flowers, not grass or weeds, cause allergies.

This one is false. Ornamental flowers, like all pollen-bearing plants, certainly are a major contributor to allergy symptoms. But weeds have flowers, too. Grass and weeds contain pollen, and are most potent between late May and mid-July. Tree pollen, on the other hand, will hit the air mainly from late April into May. Wind and humidity can make symptoms worse.

2. If you've never had allergies, you never will.

Not true. The most common onset of seasonal allergies is in the teens and 30s. But they can start at any age. An allergy is, quite simply, when the body's immune system overreacts to any number of substances, which are called allergens. Seasonal allergies cause symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itchiness and watery eyes. Food and medicine allergies can cause serious reactions that may be life-threatening.

3. You don't need to take allergy medication until you notice symptoms.

Also false. It's best to begin allergy medicine, such as an over-the-counter antihistamine, before the allergy season or exposure hits.

4. Hay causes hay fever.

This is a bit of a misnomer. While hay can, in fact, cause allergy symptoms because it's a plant, many other things also cause hay fever, which is just another name for seasonal allergies. Also, there is no fever associated with allergies.

5. Allergy shots contain the very thing you're allergic to.

This one is true. Though it sounds a little ludicrous, it actually makes sense. The allergen in a shot, such as grass pollen or ragweed, stimulates your immune system to create antibodies to fight the allergen. Then, over time when you and this allergen meet, these new antibodies will help to block it, resulting in less severe symptoms. This form of immunotherapy isn't a cure-all for all allergies, so ask your doctor if it's right for you.

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Last Updated 04/10/2009