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Allergy sufferers under siege

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Tampa Bay residents get a lot of pleasure during the winter months out of sending beauty shots of beaches and other reminders that there are parts of the country where shoveling snow and sky-high heating bills are not everyday issues. However, no place is perfect. In the Tampa Bay area most of February has been pure misery for allergy sufferers with pollen.com pollen levels ranging from "medium-high" to off-the-charts.

At least one allergy expert says the early outbreak of pollen may be permanent. In a guest article for TampaBay.com allergist Dr. Mona Mangat says Tampa Bay's climate is warming and that means earlier outbreaks of pollen. For the normal red, itchy eyes, nasal congestion and sneezing, Dr. Mangat says over-the-counter remedies such as Zyrtec and Claritin can provide stop-gap relief, but notes that Allergen immunotherapy is the only long-term answer. "Allergen immunotherapy is the only FDA-approved treatment for allergies that can offer long-term benefits for your symptoms. It's a commitment of time and money, requiring you to see your allergist regularly. But the payback is that over time, the therapy changes the way your immune system deals with allergens, making your reactions less severe and in many cases cutting your need for medication."

The weekend outlook is enough to send even those who don't normally get hit too hard with pollen levels projected for the dark yellow "medium-high" level on Saturday, before peaking in the bright red "high" zone on Saturday. Juniper, Oak and Nettle are combining to form a wicked witch's brew of irritants.

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