PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – For many, Spring in Central Illinois means the return of seasonal allergies.

More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. It’s the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the country, according to the the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

“Just seems like whenever the pollen is coming around I always get stuffy,” said Jam Rohr.

“It’s miserable. I generally have the grasses and the blooms from trees, all of that,” said Mark Gagliardo.

Dr. Stephen Smart, allergist and immunologist with Springfield Clinic Peoria Allergy & Asthma, said Spring allergies are triggered by tree pollen.

“Tree pollen is very heavy in the month of April in the Midwest,” he said. “Typical symptoms are itchy watery eyes, sneezing, itching, clear runny nose, post-nasal drainage and nasal congestion. This can be complicated by a cough, sleep disturbance, snoring, headache, and just general fatigue and feeling crummy,” said Smart.

Smart said mild symptoms are usually resolved with over-the-counter medicine like Zyrtec or Xyzal. He recommended using nasal steroids, such as Flonase, for anything beyond a “simple runny nose.”

“They are basically topical cortisone sprays that you spray in your nose. They generally need to be used daily throughout the season,” he explained.

Smart said even asthma is allergy-related. It’s an allergic response from the lungs.

“Many people think it’s a separate thing, but really, asthma can be thought of as allergic bronchitis,” he said.

Two Bradley University students said their allergies are worse in the spring than the fall.

“Usually in the Spring. A lot when the flowers start blooming, trees and everything,” said Adrianna Gomella.

“I would say the Spring. I always get a cold and post nasal drip,” said Izzy Fontaine.

Dr. Smart recommended allergy shots for those experiencing bad symptoms year after year; it can significantly improve one’s quality of life.

“It’s basically taking what the patient is allergic to, starting with a very, very low dose and gradually building a tolerance. So that over time, they literally become less allergic, feel better and need less medicine,” he said. “Many people with chronic diseases just kind of get used to it. They think ‘this is normal for me’. They’re living at maybe 70 or 80% of what they could be.”

Smart recommended wearing a mask when mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and other potential high exposures to allergens.