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Connecticut’s allergy season is here. Here’s what you can try to get some relief

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It’s seasonal allergy time in Connecticut, and that means runny noses and itchy eyes can complicate going outside on beautiful spring days.

Dr. Kelsey Kaman, an allergy and immunology specialist with Hartford HealthCare, said Wednesday there are things you can do to prepare.

“Highest pollen counts are usually 5 to 10 a.m., so [try] to avoid those hours,” Kaman said. “Keeping your windows shut during high pollen count days … and making sure you shower at the end of the night, so … you’re really getting those pollen off of you.”

If appropriate for the person, Kaman said nasal steroids can be used to prevent allergies from happening. She said oral and nasal antihistamines can also be used to control symptoms after they start.

Kaman said Connecticut’s seasonal allergies have ramped up over the last month, with tree- and grass-pollen counts getting more aggressive in the last two weeks.

Pollen grains are “seeds” dispersed from plants that can trigger a host of allergic reactions in the body. Eye irritation and runny nose are common, as the immune system mistakenly identifies pollen as a threat and releases chemicals that can cause irritation.

“Your body is recognizing them as foreign and creating this allergic-type response that causes mucus, swelling, irritation, itchiness that goes along with it,” Kaman said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, climate change will potentially intensify seasonal allergies by leading to “both higher pollen concentrations and longer pollen seasons, causing more people to suffer more health effects from pollen and other allergens.”

And longer allergy seasons could be costly – to human health and pocketbooks.

“Exposure to pollen has been linked to asthma attacks and increases in hospital admissions for respiratory illness,” according to the CDC. “Medical costs linked with pollen exceed $3 billion every year, with nearly half of those costs being linked to prescription medicine.”

A recent report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says three Connecticut cities – Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport – rank in the top 20 nationwide as most challenging for seasonal allergies.

Kaman said allergy sufferers who have identified what triggers their seasonal allergies via testing can then use technology to help them avoid exposure.

“By identifying what your allergies are you can download a lot of these really cool apps that let you look [to see] when that allergen is going to be more prevalent,” Kaman said, “and be able to ... get alerts on your phone when those counts are going up.”

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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