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April is prime month for seasonal allergies

LAWRENCEVILLE - Spring is in the air, and so are the pollens that cause some sort of physical discomfort for about 20 percent of Americans.

From late March until the end of June, seasonal allergies - commonly known as "hay fever" - will wreak havoc upon the allergic, causing congestion, sneezing, runny noses and itchy eyes.

Dr. John Zora of the Lawrenceville Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic said suffering can extend beyond the symptoms generally associated with allergies.

"It can affect the ability to sleep, asthma can worsen - there can be some real quality of life issues with these people," Zora said. "Fatigue and a reduced ability to focus."

While some symptoms are relatively minor, Zora said it is important not to ignore allergies. The extent of treatment needed can vary greatly.

There are over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl and Claritin and prescription medications such as Singulair, but in addition to potential undesirable side effects, these remedies don't always work, Zora said.

That's when he recommends sufferers see their primary doctors who, in serious cases, may refer patients to an allergist. In some cases, nasal steroids or allergy shots may be recommended.

Regardless of the severity, Zora said the main thing is to seek treatment.

Staying indoors is one way to limit one's exposure to allergens, but may not be feasible for everyone.

"I think you need to live your life," Zora said. "Before I decide to stay in the house for two months, I'm going to try and treat this."

SideBar: Allergy tips

How to reduce exposure to allergens

· Shower or bathe before going to sleep to remove allergens from hair and skin.

· Remove shoes before entering your home and wash clothes in hot water.

· Limit outdoor activities, especially during dry, windy days. Be aware of weather forecasts and pollen counts.

· Keep windows and doors closed and use an air conditioner.