Most people think of spring as peak allergy season, but depending on where you live, outdoor allergens are present year-round (in New York, for example, pollen season typically begins in June). During the spring, summer, and early fall, pollen from trees and weeds may cause you to suffer from congestion, itchy eyes, and sneezing. Whether you’re allergic to grass pollen, tree pollen, weeds, molds, or pet dander, here are 10 ways to keep your seasonal allergies under control.
1. KEEP POLLEN OUT OF YOUR HOME.
Taking steps to keep pollen and other outdoor allergens out of your home will give you some relief from allergy symptoms. Keep windows and doors closed, and don’t hang up laundry to air dry outside (pollen can cling to sheets and clothes). Vacuuming and dusting will also keep your floors as clean and allergen-free as possible. Consider wearing a dust mask while you clean to avoid inhaling allergens.
2. TAKE ALLERGY MEDICINE BEFORE THINGS GET BAD.
It might be tempting to ignore symptoms of mild nasal congestion or watery eyes, but your allergy symptoms can get bad quickly. According to Dr. Kellie Lim, an allergist-immunologist who practices at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, you can prevent or minimize symptoms by taking medication before allergy season starts. “The best treatment for allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is a nasal steroid spray,” Lim tells mental_floss. Oral antihistamines (such as Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin) also help to treat symptoms and can safely be taken daily for long periods of time.
3. IRRIGATE YOUR NASAL PASSAGES.
Nasal irrigation may look weird, but it can provide much needed allergy relief. By squirting a saline solution (distilled or previously boiled water plus salt) up one nostril and out the other, you flush out allergens and extra mucus from your nostrils and sinuses. Dr. Suman Golla, an Associate Professor, Ear Nose & Throat at University of Pittsburgh Medical School, tells mental_floss that saline nasal rinses and neti pots are very effective at cleansing the nasal passages of pollen, dust, and other irritants and allergens.
4. CHOOSE WHEN TO EXERCISE OUTDOORS WISELY.
Pollen levels vary throughout the day, so be strategic about when you head outside to exercise, do chores, or have a picnic. According to Golla, patients with severe allergies may want to consider staying indoors during the early morning or late evening hours, when pollen counts are high. Lim suggests outdoor exercise after it rains, when pollen counts are typically low. Keep in mind that sunny, warm, windy days with low humidity generally have high pollen counts, but the ubiquity of pollen means that you can never completely escape it.
5. DITCH YOUR RUGS.
For allergy sufferers, hardwood and tile floors are preferable to carpets. If you rent your home or don’t want to remove your carpeting, ditch any area rugs you might have. These rugs can act like magnets for allergens such as pet dander, pollen, dust, and dust mites. Even if you vacuum and wash your rugs regularly, allergens from your shoes or pets can get embedded in the fibers, making your home less allergy-friendly.
6. CHECK THE WEATHER REPORT FOR A POLLEN FORECAST.
Just like the temperature, pollen counts change daily. If you’re planning to spend the day outdoors, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you check the pollen forecast for your area to determine if you should take more allergy medicine, stay indoors, or close your windows. Visit the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s National Allergy Bureau for pollen and mold levels, or head to The Weather Channel’s allergy forecast to see pollen activity in your area for the next few days.
7. SHOWER BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP.
If you’ve spent the day outside, take a shower before going to sleep to wash allergens off your body and out of your hair. A clean body, free of pollen and dust, will help keep your bed clean, giving you a better chance of getting a full night’s sleep—without sneezing fits.
8. KEEP PETS OFF YOUR BED.
Making your bedding allergy-friendly can be a big boon to easing your allergy symptoms. Golla stresses the importance of keeping pets out of the bedroom: “Within the bedroom, the upholstery, draperies, and the bed itself are prime locations for pet dander deposition. Please do your best to keep your pets out of your bedroom and especially out of your bed.” To minimize dust mites, use a zippered, allergen-proof pillowcase and mattress cover, and regularly wash your linens in hot water (around 130 to 140°F) to kill the mites (and remove their eggs).
9. USE AN AIR PURIFIER.
If you have central air conditioning, make sure you regularly clean the vents so that dust and other allergens don't blow around your home. You can also purchase an air purifier with a HEPA filter to keep your air as clean as possible. “An air purifier can be very effective in reducing allergen exposure, if used in certain conditions,” says Lim. Her advice? Put the air purifier in your bedroom or home office, and keep pets out and windows closed. Vacuum and clean the room frequently to reduce allergens and ensure that the purifier is able to filter particles as effectively as possible.
10. SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT WITH AN ALLERGIST.
If you’re still struggling with your allergies, book an appointment with an allergist who is board-certified in Allergy and Immunology. Your allergist can facilitate allergy testing, prescribe medications, and explore long-term treatment options such as allergy shots.