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Spring Could Bring Worst Allergy Season Ever

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In news that's nothing to sneeze at, seasonal allergy experts are confirming that 2013 allergies are going to start sooner -- and last longer -- in most parts of the country.

The 2013 allergy season is expected to begin about 14 days earlier in many parts of the United States. Experts also believe that seasonal allergies will last about 30 days longer, running through the month of October.

"We're expecting to see a very robust allergy season because of a lot of precipitation during late winter and the warmer temperatures we're seeing now throughout the country," says adult and pediatric allergy specialist Dr. Clifford Bassett, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine and Langone Medical Center.

Higher-than-normal carbon dioxide emissions could be fueling pollen production, in effect telling plants to produce three to five times more pollen. "This is the physical effect of increasing greenhouse gases on certain plants," Dr. Bassett claims.

In fact, United States Department of Agriculture studies found that a single ragweed plant could be producing up to 4 billion pollen grains. "Not only is the pollen more prolific, it seems to be more powerful, supercharged," Dr. Bassett explains.

Additionally, large amounts of precipitation in late winter combined with warmer current temperatures set the stage for excess tree pollen.

Which days will be the worst? Higher levels of pollen generally occur on warm, dry, and windy days, while lower levels of seasonal pollen circulate on calm, wet, and cloudy days.

Dr. Bassett has a few expert tips to help you survive the allergy season:

Gauge It

To get a sense of your seasonal allergy status, visit allergyandasthmarelief.org to take a free allergy relief test. Before starting any type of treatment, get your seasonal allergies confirmed with a simple in-office allergy test; otherwise, you could be treating the wrong problem. Allergy shots may reduce or slow down your allergy problem and have been shown to give long-term relief in nearly 90 percent of patients, Dr. Bassett notes.

Treat Early

If you use nasal or oral antihistamines, steroids, or eye drops for seasonal allergies, don't wait until your symptoms are unbearable to start treatment. "If you see an allergist and get tested, the doctor can quickly individualize treatment, telling you when you should take medications and when to be on pre-treatment or allergy alert."

Be In the Know

Make a habit of checking your local allergy levels. Go to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's National Allergy Bureau for up-to-date pollen counts. You can even sign up for email alerts or download a smartphone app that tracks pollen counts.

Be Shady

Wear oversized sunglasses to block airborne pollens from hitting your eyes. This can help prevent redness and watery eyes.

Finally, accessorize from the top. Wearing a hat -- preferably a wide-brimmed one -- can help keep pollen and other allergens from landing in your hair and eyes.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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