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How to get through Florida's allergy season

Are you one of the many people sneezing, sniffling and stuffed up because of all the pollen?

TAMPA, Fla. — Living in Florida has so many perks: sunshine, great weather and beautiful beaches. One major downside is Florida's allergy "season"...which is actually all year.

"We have different allergens for all different seasons," explained Dr. Gregory Baker at AdventHealth, "Right now is tree pollen, pretty soon once we hit rainy season people will be affected by mold allergies."

There's actually research and data that says our pollen seasons are growing longer and longer. 

So what do you do if your eyes are itchy, you're stuffed up and constantly sneezing? One answer is something you should already have: a mask. Face coverings that you wear to slow the spread of COVID-19 should cover your nose and mouth and help block out some pollen from affecting your sinuses.

RELATED: VERIFY: Can your COVID-19 mask block pollen and allergies?

Dr. Baker says immediate relief will come from using approved, over-the-counter medicine.

"Non-sedating antihistamines like Clarinex, Claritin, Allegra are much preferred because they can be taken during the day and not promote sleepiness. Other things like Benadryl and Zyrtec should usually be taken at night because they promote sleepiness." He says you can also use nasal sprays, especially if you're congested.

A lot of people in Florida like the more holistic route when it comes to allergy treatment. There are no studies that can make a clear link as to why they may work for some, but Dr. Baker says if it works for you, go for it. 

"The general rule of thumb is if you try a solution and it works, go ahead and take it, but evidence-based medicine will usually be the one that's recommended."

One of those natural allergy remedies comes in the form of something sweet. Honey. A lot of farms create 'allergy blend' honeys. One blend comes from I Heart Bees in Polk City. They collect honey from their farms across the state. "All of the seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter are put into one product we call allergy blend. So, when you eat our honey on a daily basis, you get all the pollen from the entire year, from the entire state. 

"It gives your body a sample of all of the pollen so you get more used to it," explained Gary Hinkle, a co-owner of I Heart Bees.

Something to keep in mind as Florida has attracted a lot of new families is that you may see seasonal allergies for the first time after a couple of years here.

"The first exposure to the allergens will usually not produce any symptoms. Your immune system is naive and it doesn't know about our tree or grass pollens. The second and third, that's when you see more of a reaction," explained Dr. Baker. That's why you may go years without being affected and all of a sudden this year you're itchy, stuffy and sneezing. 

Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference between your allergy symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms. You should always get tested for the virus as a precaution, but here's how to tell the difference between the two:

Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Itchy and watery eyes are symptoms more common of seasonal allergies, according to the CDC.

RELATED: VERIFY: COVID-19 or allergies? How to tell the difference between symptoms

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