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Allergies happen when your immune system -- which normally protects your body against invading agents -- overreacts to a minor annoyance. When an allergic person inhales pollen, the immune system falsely identifies these particles as a threat and mobilizes to attack by producing large amounts of antibodies.
The antibodies signal the body to unleash protective chemicals, including histamine. Within 30 minutes, small blood vessels in your nose widen and engorge tissues, causing a stuffy nose. Glands start to produce mucus, resulting in the sniffles.
Molly Ferris, a chronic allergy sufferer who lives in Omaha, Nebraska, says the Midwest in spring can be "torturous." "I have three kids and it's impossible not to be outside, but I'm miserable even taking my prescription medicine. I'm the only one looking forward to the middle of summer, but at least then I might get some relief."
Prescription medicines, such as Claritin, Alegra, and Zyrtec provide the best relief. Over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants can also help. There are several proactive things allergy sufferers can do to minimize symptoms.
Don't worry; tree pollen should only be around for a few more weeks at most. But then it's time for grass pollen to explode and many cities already are recording high to moderate readings. -- Martha Miller