During the spring, many people experience a flare in their allergy symptoms due to increased pollen counts. Plants are waking up after a long winter and putting their energy into reproducing, which is great for them but not so great for humans suffering from allergies. Luckily, there are a few tricks which when followed can minimize the severity of allergies that the coming season will bring.

1. Keep the windows closed
While it may be tempting to let in some of the fresh spring air, avoid this temptation in order to lessen allergy symptoms. Running the air conditioner is a more allergy-friendly option when it is warm out, inside the vehicles as well as at home. If you can’t keep the windows closed all day, at least close them from 5am to 10am when the pollens are maximum in number. This is the time of day when the air usually has the most allergens present.

2. Avoid being outdoors in the early morning
If possible, stay inside between especially during early mornings and the afternoon. These are the hours when you are at the highest risk to contracting allergies. If you can’t avoid taking a trip outside during the afternoon, make sure the car windows are closed.

3. Don’t hang-dry your clothing or linens
Hang-drying clothing and linens is an environmentally-friendly option for people who do not suffer from allergies. However, pollen can be blown onto the fabric of sheets, towels and clothing and cause symptoms in allergy sufferers. Either hang the items indoors or resign yourself to using a dryer, at least when the allergy season is at its peak.

4. Pre-treat
If you take a seasonal allergy medication, ask your doctor if it is okay to start taking it a few weeks before spring truly starts. Allergy medicines tend to work better when they are taken for a couple of weeks prior to the beginning of exposure. Depending on where you live, this can be earlier or later in the year, coinciding with the initial warm days of spring. Mild winters tend to bring more pollen-heavy springs, so this step is especially important if the winter hasn’t been too harsh.

5. Purchase and wear pollen mask when gardening
Ideally, it would be best if you can have someone else take over the outdoor chores during pollen season. However, if this is not possible, purchase and wear a pollen mask while performing outdoor chores, especially:

  • Lawn mowing
  • Raking leaves, and
  • Gardening

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends a mask that has a NIOSH rated 95 filter.

6. Be aware of pollen counts
www.weather.com uses a tool for tracking pollen counts in your area. Since pollen counts can vary widely from day to day, make a habit of checking the pollen counts to know the particularly bad days and plan your daily schedule accordingly. This way, you can put off that picnic in the park or other outdoor activity when you see that the pollen rating has gone through the roof.

7. Make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter
Vacuuming can just stir up pollen and return it to the air if the proper filter is not used. To prevent this from happening, ensure that your vacuum has a HEPA filter, which will catch and take out many allergens. Ideally, have someone else do the vacuuming and stay out of the room for an hour or so afterward. This allows the dust that is inevitably stirred up time to settle.

8. Consider using a neti pot
Neti pots are an alternative treatment for sinus congestion. They use salt water to rinse out the sinuses and studies show that they work just as well as allergy medications for at least some people. Follow the directions and don’t use plain tap water in a neti pot, as this has been implicated in rare cases of amoebiasis.

For seasonal allergy treatment, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michelle Holincheck, FNP

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