Jessica Dean and Robin Rodriguez

Wednesday’s forecast includes moderate levels of tree and grass pollen with a low level of weed pollen. But watch out for Thursday, when pollen levels for grass are expected to be high. It turns out that for some of us, the “Pollen Cast” is just as important, if not more than the weather forecast. And why is that? You’ve heard it in all your classes and seen signs of it all over campus. It’s definitely allergy season: the time of year when you can barely take a test without hearing a symphony of sniffling and sneezing from all your classmates and you can barely walk across campus without experiencing the same symptoms yourself. It may have occurred to you that a trip to the beach or on a cruise would not only be fun because of the current weather, but would produce the added benefit of no allergies.

Although many people experience allergies, the allergy season never really ends; it just changes as different plants begin producing pollen. The rain may bring relief for people suffering from pollen allergies, but it magnifies the symptoms of people suffering from mold allergies. The National Institutes of Health estimates that about 38 million Americans experience allergy symptoms. That’s just slightly less than the populations of California, Oregon and Washington combined.

If you’re an allergy sufferer, chances are you know by now what triggers your symptoms and it may only take one stuffy nose to trigger a trip to the health center or a drug store for the medication that will give you relief. And this is a good thing, because allergies are caused by the over-reaction of your immune system; there really isn’t a cure. But controlling your symptoms will help you focus on finishing off spring quarter as well as decreasing your risk of developing the two major complications of allergies – sinusitis and asthma.

As we said before, allergies are due to an over-reaction of the immune system. All of us are exposed to the same pollens and spores constantly, but only some of us are begging for relief. If you suffer from allergies, the pollen fragments and allergens you breathe in trigger a reaction that causes your white blood cells to produce an antibody called IgE. When IgE binds to the allergen, it releases histamine. Histamine causes inflammation as well as all the other symptoms you’re familiar with, such as itchy and watery eyes and a runny nose. Those of us who are suffering from allergies are making the IgE antibody while others are not.

Scientists aren’t sure why some people develop allergies while some others don’t. While many people develop allergies as children, a growing number of people are starting to show signs in adulthood. And since there is no cure for allergies, let’s look at some ways that you can reduce your symptoms and make spring more bearable.

There are a ton of allergy medications on the market and most of them are antihistamines. The name means what it sounds like; it blocks the histamine released from IgE from reacting in your body. The side effects of these pills can be drowsiness or hyperactivity – or both. Other prescription allergy medications may include a steroid nasal spray to decrease the immune response. The side effects of these are generally minimal if taken at appropriate doses.

Some allergists recommend taking a look at your overall lifestyle. They suggest that increasing your activity level and improving your diet to alleviate symptoms. However, remember that exercising early in the morning may trigger more allergy symptoms because pollen levels are higher. Some people with severe allergies may also have allergic reactions to raw fruit. You should definitely get enough rest, because allergy sufferers know nothing triggers the desire for a nap more than a sneezing fit. But remember to take a shower first. All those little particles of pollen are microscopic and they’re in your hair and on your skin. If you lay down, you’re only going to end up rubbing your face in them and having another allergic reaction. Oh, and calm yourself down. We know it’s hard if you haven’t been able to breathe all day and can’t focus, but one study reported that allergy sufferers are more likely to be depressed and neurotic. Although it’s not clear if the depression caused the allergy or the other way around.

Jessica and Robin are senior Nutrition students and Peer Health Educators. They can be reached at

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