March 15, 2013 -- Ah, spring is in the air at last. Along with the greening of grass and blooming of flowers, you might be noticing a lot more sniffling, sneezing and wheezing in your household.
If so, you've certainly come to the right place for that. For the next several weeks, ABC News will become the go-to source for seasonal allergies, which affect 40 percent of Americans, and allergies in general.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that an estimated 50 million Americans – one in five – suffer from allergies at some point in their lives. Allergies rank fifth among leading chronic diseases in the United States and cost businesses and the health care system an estimated $14.5 billion a year.
People can be allergic to almost anything -- 7 percent of Americans struggle with skin allergies, while 6 percent are prone to adverse drug reactions that stem from allergies. It's also possible to be allergic to the sun, water, holidays, sex -- even your own baby.
Several of our stories will explore how allergies hit kids particularly hard. About 10 percent of children under the age of 17 suffer from hay fever each year, and up to 8 percent may experience food allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. We'll introduce you to a boy whose allergies are so severe he attends school via robot. We'll also report on a summer camp that caters to allergy-prone kids.
We'll explore how youngsters with food allergies often require special treatment in school, which can lead to stigma, ridicule and bullying. Many must carry an EpiPen or inhaler. They're forced to become food-label experts and must learn to fight for themselves in potentially life-threatening situations.
We'll explain why allergies are on the rise. Global warming may play a part. The National Wildlife Federation predicts that erratic weather, pollution and climate change will create worsening allergy miseries for more than 25 million Americans in the coming decade.
Some experts also believe we are too clean for our own good, leaving us more vulnerable to germs and allergens. Our experts will weigh in on the evidence for and against this "hygiene hypothesis."
And not to worry. We're going to offer plenty of help and support. We'll tell you whether it's a good idea to go gluten-free, how to control allergy anxiety, which allergy apps can help you sail through the worst of the season of sneeze, and more.
Finally, don't miss our tweet chat on seasonal allergies that takes place on Tuesday, April 9 at 1 p.m. ET. Led by ABC News chief health and medical correspondent, Dr. Richard Besser, the country's top allergy experts will tweet out the latest information and advice in this one-hour conversation. To learn how you can join in, click here.