En español l Say hello to a runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing fits: It's the start of allergy season for more than 24.2 million Americans. And this year, say experts, symptoms may be worse than ever.
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"Global warming is extending the growing and pollinating season, and that extends the allergy season," explains Bryan Martin, vice president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and director of Ohio State University's allergy/immunology fellowship program. Thanks to a wetter and longer-than-normal winter, "we're going to have a walloping allergy season this year."
Even if you're familiar with the symptoms of allergies, you may have misconceptions about what causes them and how to stop the sniffling. Here are eight common allergy myths, busted.
Myth: You can't inherit allergies
Fact: Environmental factors may be contributing to higher pollen levels, but that's only part of the picture. The other culprit: your genes.
Research published in a 2013 issue of the journal Nature Genetics found 10 genetic markers associated with allergic disease.
Manuel Ferreira, lead researcher and senior research fellow for QIMR-Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia, estimates that those markers play a role in at least 25 percent of all diagnosed allergies. In other words, don't blame Mother Nature, blame your own mother (and father).
The upside to the genetic link, Ferreira notes, is that studying these genes could help identify new therapies for allergic disease.
Myth: Local honey provides all-natural allergy relief
Fact: It may taste great in tea or slathered on a scone, but there is no evidence that honey — even if it comes from a local hive — alleviates allergies. In fact, a 2013 review of the literature published in the journal Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America notes that eating honey provided no significant relief for allergy symptoms compared with eating corn syrup.
According to Martin, honey is ineffective because it's the airborne pollens in trees and grasses that cause springtime allergies, not the pollen in flowers that bees use to make honey.
"The logic makes sense — I'm allergic to pollen, bees make honey from pollen, I can eat honey and build up a tolerance to the allergens — but that's not how it works," he says.
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