Allergy Season: Gesundheit!

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Don’t let the symptoms of the season – like sneeze after sneeze – take the spring out of your step. A Boca doctor advises how to keep allergies at bay.

The Big Offenders

Some of the worst allergens in South Florida are hard to escape, according to Fernanda de Oliveira, a family practice doctor in Boca Raton (7301-A W. Palmetto Park Road, Suite 100-B, 561/955-5761).

■ Grass: The St. Augustine variety is a year-round allergen in South Florida.

■ Tree pollens: High season for these runs from February to May, according to de Oliveira; locally, these include oak, pine and birch trees.

■ Mold: This wreaks indoor and outdoor havoc throughout the year, de Oliveira says, anywhere it’s wet, damp or humid. Yard debris with fallen leaves is a mold haven. In the house, you might find it around pipes, in the bathroom— or anywhere there’s a leak.

How Does It Feel?

Allergies can make life miserable. Symptoms, according to de Oliveira, include watery, swollen, itchy eyes; runny nose; sneezing; and itchy throat. At their worst, allergy symptoms can cause lower respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing. The more dangerous symptoms are common in people who also have asthma, she says.

How to Feel Better

■ Check the forecast: “Pay attention to weather,” de Oliveira says.

“If you have particularly warm or windy days, you’ll have more pollen in the air. On those days, you might want to plan more indoor than outdoor activities.” Another clue that allergies might be bad? West winds (from west to east).

Living close to the beach is better for people with allergies.

■ Do your research: Find local pollen counts online and during television news. Accuweather.com, for example, offers daily pollen counts for grass, tree, weed and mold.

■ Timing is everything: If you have to be outside, consider this: Pollen counts are lower in the afternoon than at any time of the day.

■ Cleanliness is next to …: When you’re done with outdoor activities, change your clothes, and wash your hair and skin to help eliminate allergens.

■ Keep it cool: Whether in the car or at home, consider keeping windows closed and running the air conditioning to keep out allergens—and keep air circulating.

A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can help prevent mold from growing and allergens from invading your space.

■ Use protection: If you are highly allergic and have to be outside when pollen counts and mold spores are in force, consider wearing a mask.

■ Don’t play dirty: It’s not the plants that grow mold in the home. It’s the soil. So limit your indoor plants.

■ Spray away: The best thing for anyone with environmental allergies is nasal saline spray, the doctor says. It doesn’t matter what brand. It’s safe, and you can use saline sprays to irrigate nasal passages and rinse away allergens as much as you want.