West: Pollen equals whinning
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By MIKE WEST

Don't get me wrong. I love Spring.

But it is "ah-choo" time for yours truly.

Yep, I've got all the symptoms: Plugged up sinuses, endless sneezing, CONGESTION, coughing, runny nose and scrutched up eyes.

You name it, I've got it when it comes to Spring.

Once upon a time, allergies weren't a problem. I could jump on the tractor, bush-hog a field of ragweed with hardly a sneeze. But nevermore ...

First of all, I've got to admit my allergies aren't all that bad. Taking the medicine to combat them is actually worse. So why am I whining?

For example, my wife has them much worse. Poor dear! It usually takes a couple of doctor visits to knock it out.

Of course, Middle Tennessee is a high-pollen area. This year's allergy report ranks two Tennessee cities, Memphis and Knoxville, in the top five of Spring Allergy Capitals. Jackson MS is No. 1 on the list. The other top ten cities include #2 Louisville, KY; #3 Oklahoma City, OK; #4 Memphis; #5 Knoxville; #6 McAllen, TX; #7 Wichita, KS; #8 Dayton, OH; #9 Providence, RI; #10 Richmond, VA.

Nashville ranks at #13, so you know the pollen count has to be high here because we have so much more greenery especially when compared to cities like Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis.

Scientifically speaking, allergies are caused by your immune system reacting to a foreign material, which is called an allergen. This reaction takes the form of coughing, sneezing, etc. Some folks have even worst reactions resulting in rashes, hives, asthma attacks and in some cases even death.

Unlike many diseases, there is no real cure to allergies. So you either suffer from them or take a preventative treatment including antihistimes and similar drugs. Others use natural (homeopatic) treatments.

Experts think nasal allergies affect some 50 million folks in the U.S. And for some reason or another, allergies are increasing, bothering 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children under 18 years old.

Allergies, including asthma, is the fifth leading chronic disease in the United State, affecting people of all ages. Children, in particular, have a problem with allergies.

There are several common sense approaches you can take to deal with spring pollen.

To begin with, if you have a severe pollen problem, stay inside as much as you can. That's particularly true on windy days and during early morning hours when pollen counts are the highest.

If you head outdoors, glasses or sunglasses can help keep pollen out of your eyes. If you must work outside, like working in the garden or mowing your grass, wear a filter mask. They look a bit goofy, but really can help.

Once you're back inside, always take a shower, wash your hair (if you have any) and change your clothing. That gets the pollen off of you and also helps keep it out of your house.

If so inclined, take allergy medicine. Antihistamines can help block your body's response to allergies. Be sure to read the instruction on your medicine because some of them can make you drowsy. (In my case, those medicines will just about knock me out.

In other cases, nasal sprays can help but they can take a few days to work.

If you have severe allergy problems, you might consider allergy shots. They help your body build resistance to pollen, but this is a gradual process that takes tests and lots of shots.

Of course, you can always do like me - suffer for a week or two and whine even longer.

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