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Sky high pollen counts for Tampa Bay

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Florida residents often take great pleasure in reminding friends up north about the warm, snow-free winters. But that pleasant weather comes with a price: pollen counts are making life miserable for allergy sufferers and bothering even people who normally aren't affected.

Pollen.com reports that today (Thursday) the Tampa Bay pollen count will hit 11 on their 12 point scale. There's no relief in sight over the next few days, either. Friday's prediction is for a peak of 9 point 6, then back into the bright red heavy zone for the weekend.

The good news is that there are new weapons available for the fight against sneezing, coughing, runny noses and watery eyes. Old standbys such as Benadryl can help, but may cause drowsiness, but according to an article by allergy specialist Dr. Mona V. Mangat in the Tampa Bay Times help is as close as your local pharmacy. "Newer drugs such as Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine) and Allegra (fexofenadine) offer similar benefits without the sedation. We now have generic equivalents available over the counter."

There are even more exotic treatments gaining favor, according to Dr. Mangat, including one from Europe. "Recently, there has been a growing interest in 'allergy drops' (medically known as sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT). Instead of allergy shots, allergens are placed in liquid or tablet form under the tongue. Increasing amounts of allergens are administered through this route on a daily basis. This treatment has been widely used in Europe for decades but has only recently been FDA approved in the United States." Dr. Mangat cautions that SLIT is still new and there's a lot of guesswork involved for doctors who prescribe it.

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