With spring in full swing, the sun marks the start of patio season for some but allergy season for many others.

Between 20 and 30 per cent of Canadians have a genetic predisposition to developing an allergic disease, according to Dr. Peter Vadas, director of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology division at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“For those who grow up in a certain part of the world — if they’ve grown up in southern Ontario, for example — they’ll typically start to develop their allergies in late childhood into early teen years,” said Vadas, “They typically intensify over their teenage years, into the young adult years, and then stabilize.”

Tree pollens in early spring, grass pollens in late spring and outdoor molds on damp, humid days are the most common kinds of spring-specific allergies, said Vadas. But he contends running noses and watery eyes shouldn’t stop allergy sufferers from enjoying spring weather.

“We all want to be outdoors in the nice weather,” said Vadas, “If people keep their doors and windows closed during the pollen season and run the fan on the air conditioner — not necessarily the compressor if it’s cooler — then that will help to clean the air as it’s being pulled indoors.”

If such pollen prevention doesn’t work, Vadas recommends over-the-counter antihistamines bearing a “non-drowsy” label to treat allergies. While more expensive, he said they have fewer side effects than “drowsy” ones.

“If a person’s symptoms don’t respond well to antihistamines, then they can consult a physician and try prescription eye drops and nose sprays, which also work very well.”

But chemical drugs only cover up problems rather than solve them, according to registered holistic allergist Eloise O’Ball of Vancouver’s Pacific Allergy & Wellness. She said natural methods like needle-less biofeedback testing that uses a machine to open the body’s “meridians” to clear allergen blockages alternatively gets to the root of problems by responding to the body’s “innate wisdom.”

“I see many people and they’re breathing easier, eating the foods that used to bother them and their rashes clear up,” she said, “Many symptoms just seem to fall by the wayside once their immune system has been freed of whatever allergen it is.”

But if you can’t consult a holistic practice, O’Ball said consuming less caffeine products like coffee, tea and chocolate can help prevent spring allergies.

“Caffeine stimulates histamine in the body and histamine is what gives the swelling of the allergic reaction. By decreasing your caffeine level, you will decrease one of the areas of the allergic response.”