During the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed people covering up sneezes, dabbing runny noses with Kleenex or putting eye drops in their red, irritated eyes.
With an early spring, the allergy season is upon us, at a time usually reserved for winter flus and colds.
Staff at Sheri's Sonshine Nutrition Center said the early bloom throughout the Lodi area has taken many of their customers, and even family members, by surprise.
"When our seasons are like this and we don't get the rain that we should, it causes more problems earlier," Alyce Regalia said.
Dr. Gregory Bensch, a local doctor who treats allergies, said he has seen his patients coming in earlier than usual, and that allergies usually pick up at the end of March.
"It's just earlier than normal because of a lack of rain. We are pollen farmers in my business, so when the farmers tell you that the farmers' season is early, so is my season," he said.
According to Accuweather, a private forecasting service, the risk level for allergies has ranged from extreme to high risk at various times during the past two weeks. With the rain this weekend, the level has decreased to "at risk," but that doesn't mean you should not prepare for the next round of sniffles when the weather dries out.
Here are some suggestions from doctors, local businesses and our readers:
Indulge your sweet tooth: Anywhere from 1 to 3 teaspoons of local honey a day are often recommended for allergy sufferers, to expose them to local pollen collected by bees to build up a tolerance.
Growing up, News-Sentinel reader Lisa Rosa used to eat honey nearly everyday when she was 6 to 12 years old. Her older sister rarely joined her in eating honey.
"I have no allergies while my mother, father and sister all suffer endlessly every time the wind blows or trees and crops bloom, which in this Valley is all the time," Rosa wrote.
Reader Kevin Paglia used to work at a beekeeper supply store, and said they sold a lot of honey during the allergy season. He said people should use the honey as much as possible before the pollen season to prepare.
"I had people who claimed to have been bed-ridden from their allergies before the honey trick and perfectly fine the next year using the honey," Paglia wrote.
Sheri's Sonshine Nutrition Center, 6 N. School St., and Healthy Ways, 762 W. Kettleman Lane, both sell honey and local bee pollen.
For the pollen, Sheri Didreckson, owner of Sheri's Sonshine, said you should start with a couple of granules and then increase to a quarter of a teaspoon.
She usually recommends the pollen because the honey has other adverse health effects, as it contains sugar.
Neti Pot: Many allergy sufferers swear by the Neti Pot, which has been featured on "Oprah" and "Dr. Oz," Didreckson said. It is a device that shoots water through one nostril, and then it drains through the other. It flushes out your sinuses, relieving pressure.
Ramona Henninger, an employee at Sheri's, said she uses the Neti Pot every day, and tells her customers it takes about a week to get used to.
"Don't be afraid of drowning. You are in control," Henninger said with a laugh.
It is sold at most drug stores, Sheri's Sonshine and Healthy Ways.
Bensch said people can also use a nasal saline rinse if they don't want to use the Neti Pot.
Avoid the wind: Try to change your schedule to stay out of any windy weather when pollen is whipping around. Bensch suggested doing yard work in the morning, and when you are walking or gardening, consider wearing a mask.
Look inside your home: Some of the main improvements allergy suffers can make is actually in their own home.
"We use the word cumulative because what you have inside can make your allergies worse when you go outside," he said.
Ditch anything scented. Febreze, air fresheners and candles can all make your allergies worse. Also, avoid feather pillows.
Bensch also recommends buying the $1 inexpensive heating and air filters and changing them once a month, as opposed to buying a more expensive filter that you leave in for several months.
Hit the showers: As you go about their day, you collect pollen, especially if you are a woman with lots of hair. Bensch recommends people take a shower when they get home before going to bed.
Make a diet change: The consumption of gluten can sometimes aggravate allergies because there are many people who are slightly gluten-intolerant and do not know it, Henninger said. It can increase histamine levels, which are then further increased from pollen.
Henninger said her husband will start eating gluten-free bread, chips and snacks during the spring to help with his allergy symptoms. If you are having an allergic reaction, you should start a food diary to see if any foods are inflaming your symptoms.
"You should simplify your diet, so you can find out what is affecting you," Henninger said.
Try some home remedies: To boost her immune system, Susie Bryan, a News-Sentinel reader, said she drinks a glass of distilled water every morning with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
She also will mix olive oil with four drops of RC essential oil, which is a blend of four different eucalyptus oils, and then rub it on her chest and neck.
Buy generic: The main over-the-counter medicine to take is an anti-histamine. Bensch said to not buy trade names, like Zyrtec, because they are always more pricey.
Instead, he recommends you ask your pharmacist for a generic, non-sedating antihistamine.
Check out natural remedies: There are a variety of natural supplements you can take to help deal with allergy symptoms.
Sabadil is a homeopathic remedy sold at Healthy Ways that has no drug interactions or side effects. Owner Keri Blanchard said they are tablets that dissolve in your mouth and can help with congestion.
At Sheri's Sonshine, they have a variety of combination allergy remedies, like AllerFree and Aller-Response. Didreckson said you should look for combination products that include nettle leaf and grape seeds.
Spice up your life: Lodi resident Cathy Pierce said when her sinus pressure increases and her nose gets so stuffy that she cannot take it anymore, she will go to dinner at Chop Chop, at 910 W. Lodi Ave., and eat about a quarter of a teaspoon of their Chinese hot mustard.
"It makes your face goes yowza, but it clears your nose and makes it start running right away," she said.