No matter what it looks or feels like outside, spring has sprung, and along with it, come seasonal allergies.
Nearly 36 million Americans want to stop the sneezing that comes from seasonal allergies. On "Good Morning America," ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Tim Johnson shared tips on how to feel better this spring.
First, Johnson explained a condition that comes up constantly this time of year: hay fever.
"It's one form of allergy when your body's immune system overreacts to stimuli, in this case, pollen," he said. "When exposed to pollen, the body reacts with the production of antibodies -- called IGE -- which release histamine and attack the invaders."
Usually, doctors can diagnose hay fever by hearing a patient's complaints. If they have a runny nose or itchy eyes during those seasons of the year when pollen is high, doctors can safely assume the patient has hay fever. If further testing is needed, there are two ways to go -- skin tests or blood tests.
Tips for Sufferers
Johnson said that the best way to treat seasonal allergies is to prevent them from flaring up by limiting exposure to pollen. He offered the following tips:
Close the windows of your home, car, office and use the air conditioner. That restricts the main source of pollen in a single measure.
As soon as you get home, take a shower and wash your hair and clothes. Get rid of all the pollen on your body before you go to bed.
Keep your pet from playing outdoors during the season. Pets are major carriers of pollen. Bring them inside and wash them as often as they'll let you, and don't let them on your bed.
Children are carriers too, because they're often outside playing all day. Give your child a bath and change his or her clothes when they come inside.
Explore Alternative Medicines
In addition to the traditional antihistamines and eye drops on the market, Johnson suggested exploring alternative medicines to find allergy relief.
"There are also some alternative treatments that many people use, such as omega-3, probiotics, butterbur and stinging nettles. There are also homeopathic remedies that people swear by," he said. "You should talk with your doctor and pharmacist to see if those alternatives are right for you."
A new study claims the Mediterranean diet may prevent hay fever. Johnson said that while the study sounds interesting, no conclusive evidence has come out of it.
"The study followed 700 children from a rural area in Crete who filled out food questionnaires and a correlation was found between certain foods and fewer allergy symptoms," he said. "We don't know yet if it's their diet or some other environmental factor playing a part, but it's interesting and we'll have to follow the research."
So for now, while olive oil and fresh vegetables may help the whole body, allergy sufferers will probably need to look elsewhere to stop sneezing.