Prepare now for the season of sneezes and handkerchiefs.
Prepare now for the season of sneezes and handkerchiefs. (Mark Leffingwell / Daily Camera)

As spring stretches open, the millions of Americans with allergies and asthma are bracing for one of the most brutal allergy seasons in a long time.

Blame the polar vortex, that nasty cold system that hung over the nation earlier this year. Some are even calling this spring's allergy season the "pollen vortex," since the winter weather may make all the pollen arrive at once.

Colorado wasn't hit especially hard by the weather system this year, but our regular temperature changes, combined with our pollen scores and number of allergy medications and specialists, qualifies the Denver area as one of the nation's "allergy capitals."

Boulder, specifically, did not make the list.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently released its ranking of the 100 most allergy-prone cities for this spring. Taking the lead: Louisville, Ky. Denver didn't make the list until No. 98, down from No. 91 last year, but simply landing in the top 100 means it's considered an allergy hotspot.

An increasing number of Americans are suffering from allergies — especially food allergies; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says food allergies among kids surged 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. And there's no indisputable reason why, says the Food Allergy Research and Education nonprofit.

But there are steps you can take to reduce the impact of allergies this spring, and in the long term.


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Shoban Dave', a board-certified allergist at the Flatiron Allergy and Asthma Center in Broomfield, says there are three evidence-based ways to treat allergies: avoiding the allergen, taking allergy medication or getting shots, which are designed to help change the immune system to be less reactive to the allergens.

The FDA recently improved two new grass allergy tablets that people can take under the tongue — designed to have the same effect as the shots, which are often administered weekly for a period of time, although they're not yet available, he says.

His facility also offers advanced breathing tests and patch testing for fragrance and chemical allergies.

Other steps you can take to help minimize your allergic reactions this spring:

Avoid being outside on windy, dry days, when the pollen will be circulating. Peak pollen times are typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Asthma and Allergy Foundation says.

Keep your house clean and free of dust. This includes bedding and carpet. Wear a mask while cleaning, if the dust while cleaning sparks allergies.

Try over-the-counter eye drops to help with red, burning eyes, or ask your doctor about prescription drops with antihistamines to ease the itching, says the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.

Try nasal sprays to clear out your nose, or corticosteroid sprays to help with inflammation, says the foundation.

See an allergist to get professional, personalized advice.

Some people choose alternative medicine treatments, such as acupuncture. However, Dave', who is Mayo Clinic fellowship-trained and was named one of the top allergist-immunologists by US News and Report Magazine, says he practices evidence-based medicine, so he he cannot comment on alternative treatments, such as NAET.

"Alternative methods haven't been studied with rigor, so it's difficult for us to say one way or another the benefits or the risks," Dave' says.

Although one natural treatment that's proven to reduce sinus inflammation is saline irrigation with a neti pot, Dave' says.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Aimee Heckel at 303-473-1359 or heckela@dailycamera.com or Twitter.com/Aimeemay.