CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- The spring allergy season is here, and allergy symptoms are coming back.

In Belgium, 15 percent of the population is allergic to pollen. Pollen is a powder, typically yellow, produced by the male part of a flower which fertilizes the female part of the same type of flower in order to produce seeds. It is carried by insects or the wind.

Actually, allergies are not only a spring issue. It begins much earlier with the alder, the hazel tree and the cypress from January. Then, the hornbeam, the birch, the ash and the plane tree are responsible for the allergies from March. During the spring's months, the oak tree is mainly the cause of allergies from April. However, the allergies do not stop at the end of spring. From May to August, grass pollens are main issues in Belgium, since they have high allergenic potential. Finally, from July to September, allergies can continue because of the mugwort.

In the Netherlands, allergies are quite the same. Causes such as the alder, the hazel tree, the hornbeam, the birch or even the plane tree exist in the neighboring country too. However, some allergies are a bit more specific to the Netherlands. The European Yew is a very popular conifer along Dutch creeks and rivers. It produces pollen between March and May. Beeches produce pollen from April and can be found in forests, along streets and boulevards in the Netherlands. Sweet chestnut produces a lot of pollen in June and can be found in plenty of Dutch parks, gardens and streets. Moreover, the linden tree grows in the Netherlands and blooms in June and July. The pollen is mildly allergenic and this tree can be found in parks and along streets.

If you are currently experiencing symptoms, you are probably an allergy sufferer. The most common systems are mainly from nasal drip and congestion. These symptoms are not the only ones. The allergy sufferers can also experience eye, nose and throat itches, throat pain, sneezing, chronic sinus headaches, and a cough or cold.

There is no cure for spring allergies. The best treatment is also to avoid the allergen. It is very difficult to avoid pollen, but you should minimize your exposure to pollen by staying indoors on windy days, avoiding gardening during peak seasons, wearing a dust mask and closing doors and windows when pollen counts are high. Weather websites such as Accuweather can provide information daily on allergens in the air. In Belgium, the Belgian Aerobiological Surveillance Network also provides data on allergens in the country at https://airallergy.wiv-isp.be. In the Netherlands, AllergieRadar provides current data at https://allergieradar.nl.

While there are over-the-counter medicine for allergy relief, you can also see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. For people eligible to use the SHAPE Healthcare Clinic, please call the appointment line at DSN 423-5886 or +32(0)65-445886. For more information about the clinic, go to http://rhce.amedd.army.mil/SHAPE.