NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- After a brutal winter, the last thing Americans need is another headache to handle with spring still two weeks away.
But a headache may be exactly what they get -- literally -- with allergy season also coming into full bloom.
Yes, it seems fairly downbeat to associate spring with health maladies, particularly after this winter, but allergies can't be taken lightly, particularly as they grow more aggressive.
One study published in 2011 predicts that pollen counts will double by 2040; allergy season will begin about a week earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That's why it's a good idea to get ready, a task made easier by natural allergy specialist Susanne Bennett, author of The 7-Day Allergy Makeover.
To give Americans a better understanding of seasonal, environmental, food and other types of allergies, Bennett lists five key facts and trends about allergies you may not know about:
More half of all Americans experience allergies. "Most Americans are allergic to something: pollen, dander, dairy products, gluten and mold are just a few of the most common allergens," Bennett says. "If you don't suffer from allergies to these or other compounds, you are actually in the minority. Yet countless people think that their low energy, problems with digestion or headaches are 'normal' when in fact they may be the signs of undiagnosed allergic reactions."
Allergies aren't always "visible." It's a common mistake to associate all allergies with the symptoms of hay fever (runny nose, water eyes) on the one hand or severe inflammation (as in people with shellfish or peanut allergies) on the other, Bennett says. "In the case of allergic sensitivities, you may have low-grade, persistent reactions that wear the body down over time, making it more susceptible to future allergies," she says. "Low energy, joint pain, brain fog, headaches, inexplicable anxiety and poor digestion can all be the result of allergies."
Allergy drugs are overrated. Bennett estimates that Americans spend more than $4 billion to fight their allergies annually, and usually in vain. "The majority of that money is spent on doctor visits and medications," she explains. "But drugs and creams don't actually treat allergies. Every doctor will admit that such medications merely mask the symptoms without addressing the root causes."
"While antihistamines and other drugs may provide temporary relief, their use is often accompanied by uncomfortable side effects," Bennett adds. "What's worse, by loading the body with even more difficult-to-process chemicals, people who use such medications may actually be making their allergies worse."
Watch out for your Buick. Industrial production depends upon what are known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, Bennett says. These compounds, such as formaldehyde, are found in many glues, vinyl products, paints, fuels, carpet and plastics that surround us every day. "For instance, furniture made of particleboard will often use formaldehyde in its glue, while the 'new car smell' is actually that of volatile organic compounds in the paint, leather, carpet and glue," she says. "VOCs can produce a host of allergic symptoms, such as itchy throat, headaches, brain fog, and confusion. At higher concentrations it is especially harmful to human health."
Bennett says allergies can "be healed naturally" by focusing on nutrition, water, air, living environments, kitchen, skin and emotional health. Check those items off your list and Bennett says that you can rid yourself of the buildup of allergens and toxins in the body.
"Avoiding food allergens, using water and air purifiers and removing dander, mold and bad bacteria from our homes is just the beginning," she says. "Healing your allergies is a commitment to a new, vibrant life, one filled with more energy and joy than you've had in years."
Sounds like a plan, but pass the Kleenex, anyway.