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Allergies are the body’s immune system overreacting to substances that are normally harmless. When a person with allergies breathes in allergens—such as pollen, mold, pet dander or dust mites—the resulting reaction in the nose is called allergic rhinitis, or hay fever.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year.

Grass, weeds and tree pollens are the most common causes of outdoor seasonal allergies. Indoor allergens such as dust mites, mold and animal dander usually trigger symptoms that can last all year.

Avoiding your allergy triggers is the best way to control your symptoms. Here are some strategies to help lower your exposure to allergens:

  • When pollen counts are high, stay inside with the windows closed and use air conditioning.
  • If you go outside, wash your hair and clothing to avoid bringing the pollen indoors.
  • For indoor allergens, keeping humidity levels low will help keep dust mites and mold under control.
  • Avoid upholstered furniture and carpets because they can harbor allergens.
  • Wash your bedding in hot water, and vacuum the floors once a week.

Sometimes, avoiding allergens isn’t possible or isn’t enough. Untreated allergies are associated with chronic conditions like sinus infections and asthma. Over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal sprays and decongestants can often ease mild symptoms. Prescription medications and allergy shots may be needed to relieve more severe allergies. Talk with your doctor about treatment options.

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