Itchy, watery eyes, scratchy throat, congestion, sneezing … it can only mean one thing. Allergy season is back. Fortunately for most, over-the-counter medications and some simple home maintenence can keep the worst symptoms at bay.

Trees and grass are still producing pollen and allergens, and ragweed has entered the fray. University of Missouri Clinical Professor Shauna Strickland says it’s called hayfever because such allergens typically spike during the hay harvesting season … the hay itself is not causing the problem. She says for most cases, OTC medications provide relief, but it’s up to each individual to figure out which one works best for them.

And she says keeping the allergens out of your house can help, such as keeping bed linens clean, showering before going to bed, and keeping windows closed. Strickland also advises keeping an eye on the weather service, which tracks allergens. Several internet sites post allergen levels and which are highest, she says, so if you know what you’re most affected by, you can avoid the outdoors on days they’re elevated.

Strickland says people suffering from hayfever can benefit from regularly rinsing their nose, which is where pollen and allergens get trapped, only to get breathed in deeply during sleep. Again, she says there are several OTC saline rinses allergy sufferers can try.

The bad news, she says, is that the air won’t be allergen free until plants, trees and grass quit growing for the season, which could be a few months. Trees and plants won’t stop growing and producing allergens until it starts to freeze. Recent rains have boosted allergen production for the time being.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports [Mp3, 1:26 min.]