With every Spring –– which can sometimes be every other day in Oklahoma –– there comes a high level of allergens to overcome.

THE ISSUE: Springtime allergies can become a serious issue in Oklahoma — one of the most challenging areas in the country.

LOCAL IMPACT: St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital shares tips on how local residents can recognize and minimize the bothersome symptoms of allergies.

With every Spring –– which can sometimes be every other day in Oklahoma –– there comes a high level of allergens to overcome.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to substances that generally do not affect other individuals. These substances, or allergens, can cause sneezing, coughing, and itching. Allergic reactions range from merely bothersome to life-threatening. Some allergies are seasonal, like hay fever. Allergies have also been associated with chronic conditions like sinusitis and asthma.

Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion.

More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, according to cdc.gov.

Where one lives in the U.S. might make a difference on how bad allergies are affected. Central Oklahoma remains consistently high for allergy problems.

According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, at aafa.org, Oklahoma City is one of the most challenging cities to live in with springtime allergies. In 2016 — though dropping a few notches from the previous year — it ranks in the top 10, sitting at No. 7 (scoring 81.63 percent); the data from 2015 showed Oklahoma City ranked No. 3 –– up a notch from 2014.

“Tree pollen typically is the number one allergy trigger for people who live in this region,” Carla Tollett, public relations, communications, marketing consultant for St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital, said.

“With more than 40 million Americans having nasal allergies (also called, allergic rhinitis or hay fever), this time of year can be difficult,” she said.

Springtime allergy triggers – primarily tree pollen – cause symptoms including itchy runny nose, nasal and sinus congestion, repeated sneezing, watery eyes, inflamed sinuses and, in severe cases, difficulty breathing due to all of these symptoms.

Tollett said, “Nasal allergy symptoms can be even more problematic if you also have asthma.”

At cdc.gov, the site states anyone may have or develop an allergy and they generally can not be prevented –– but allergic reactions can be. Once a person knows they are allergic to a certain substance, they can avoid contact with the allergen. Strategies for doing this include being in an air-conditioned environment during peak hay-fever season, avoiding certain foods, and eliminating dust mites and animal dander from the home. They can also control the allergy by reducing or eliminating the symptoms. Strategies include taking medication to counteract reactions or minimize symptoms and being immunized with allergy injection therapy.

In order to accurately alleviate symptoms, it's important to distinguish exactly what type of allergy a person is experiencing.

The most common allergic diseases include: hay fever, asthma, conjunctivitis, hives, eczema, dermatitis and sinusitis.

• Food allergies are most prevalent in young children and are frequently outgrown.

• Latex allergies are a reaction to the proteins in latex rubber, a substance used in gloves, condoms and other products.

• Bees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets, and fire ants can cause insect sting allergies.

• Allergies to drugs, like penicillin, can affect any tissue or organ in the body.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include flush; tingling of the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or lips; light-headedness, and chest-tightness. If not treated, these can progress into seizures, cardiac arrhythmia, shock, and respiratory distress. Anaphylaxis can result in death. Triggers such as food, latex, insect sting and drug allergies can all result in anaphylaxis, according to the CDC.

What to do

St. Anthony Shawnee Physicians offers some tips for coping with the spring allergy season:

• Talk with your doctor. To properly determine the correct allergy medicine, talk to your physician about over-the-counter options, such as nasal washes, nasal irrigation methods, or taking antihistamines, such as Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra. If these medications don’t work, you might need a prescription medication.

• Identify the triggers. Try to document the times of day and activities that trigger your allergies. Typically, two-thirds of all allergy sufferers experience symptoms throughout the entire year. An allergist can help you determine the source of what’s triggering your allergies through conducting a skin test.

• Prevent pollen from getting indoors. Keep the doors and windows closed when possible and set the air-conditioner on re-circulate. This will help pollen, mold, or other allergens from getting inside your home. Your car air–conditioner also should be set to recirculate to keep out pollens and mold.

• Vacuum at least once or twice a week. Frequent vacuuming helps reduce indoor allergens. Wear a dust mask while cleaning indoors and if you use cleaning spray, try to leave the house for a couple hours afterward to air it out. If you have a pet, you will need to vacuum more frequently. Try to keep at least your bedroom pet-free, so you won’t breathe in pet dander or hair while you sleep.

• Monitor pollen counts and time outdoor activity accordingly. Trees tend to pollinate in the morning, making pollen counts in the early hours very high. By noon, pollen counts are less than half just a few hours earlier. Plan your outdoor activities after lunch or in the evening to avoid the extreme pollen of the morning.

• Use protection while working outside. Remember to wear a pollen filter mask, especially mowing or doing yard work. Wearing protective goggles while mowing will keep debris and pollen out of your eyes.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.