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Pollen allergies more serious early in season

Spring elicits the worst reactions among allergy sufferers.

Allergy sufferers in the United States may want to escalate their medication use as soon as the calendar changes from winter to spring, according to the results of a Dutch study published this week in the medical journal Clinical and Translational Allergy.

Researchers from the Netherlands' Leiden University Medical Center studied roughly 80 patients with grass pollen allergies during the spring and summer of both 2007 and 2008. Subjects rated the severity of their allergy symptoms throughout each period, and overall, many found that their symptoms were worse in the first half of the study period.

Because there are more than 10,000 species of grass, individuals may be allergic to multiple types, all of which experience different pollination cycles. For example, if a person is allergic to four different types of grass that all pollinate at the same time, their allergy symptoms could be even more severe than they would be if they were only sensitive to one type of grass.

In addition, researchers found that individuals experienced more severe symptoms at the start of the season than at the end of the season even when they took the same amount of antihistamine medications and when pollen counts were the same. Researchers offered an explanation for this finding.

"There has been other work which suggests that high exposure to grass pollen early in the season may down regulate inflammation on subsequent contact possibly via the production of allergen specific regulatory T cells," lead researcher Dr. Letty de Weger said.

Researchers also speculated that individuals could be unaccustomed to allergies after a long winter and therefore more sensitive to irritants, or that early season pollen is more allergenic than late season pollen.

To combat allergy symptoms in the spring, patients should start preparing for their symptoms late in the winter. This could include beginning an allergy medication regimen or using a HEPA air purifier in the home.

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