While everyone else is celebrating the return of spring, allergy sufferers are sneezing, wheezing and exhausted. Their eyes are red and itchy, so bad that it’s sometimes even hard to keep them open. These people are hay-fever sufferers, among legions allergic to spring pollens, from the trees and grasses that bloom in spring.
An allergist can help you determine which of all the blooming plants aggravate your symptoms most. For many people, allergy shots bring enormous relief. But they can take months to start taking effect. Meanwhile, you want relief. Some of these approaches are bound to give you at least some relief right away:
1. Wash up
If you’ve been outdoors at this time of year, the chances are your clothes and hair are full of pollen. When you get indoors, wash your hands and face to remove pollen from your eyes and nose. If you can, strip off your clothes and hop into the shower for a quick rinse and change into fresh clothes. Also:
- Change your pajamas and sheets more often. It might help you breathe easier.
- Use an allergy protective cover for your pillow and down comforter if you think you might be allergic to feathers or dust mites.
- Keep your distance from pets and people who’ve been outdoors.
- Before letting pets indoors wipe them down with a damp cloth. Keep animals out of your bedroom.
- See if allergen-reducing pet wipes (found at pet stores) help.
- Leave outdoor footwear outside to reduce introduction of allergens in the house.
2. Protect your eyes
Eyes are among the areas most sensitive to allergens. Wearing sunglasses helps protect them, and a wraparound style works particularly well to keep pollen and dust from your eyes. Goggles — it’s important to choose nonvented types — may be goofy-looking, but some allergy sufferers are so miserable that they are willing to endure them to get relief.
3. Protect your lungs
Breathe Healthy makes washable/reusable cloth masks that are advertised to protect against germs, dust and allergens — available in adult and kids sizes with either adjustable ear loops or closer-fitting elastic headbands. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends wearing an N95 filter mask (found at hardware stores or online) while you dust, sweep or vacuum.
But don’t force protection on kids. WebMD says:
“I don’t think it’s feasible to ask a kid to play outside with a mask on,” says Jonathan A. Bernstein, MD, professor of clinical medicine at the University of Cincinnati. “It will probably just make him neurotic.” But if you’re an adult and feel that protection helps — and you can withstand the looks of passers-by — it’s not a bad idea.
4. Use a HEPA vacuum
If you don’t use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaner, it’s time to give one a try. They suck most small particles into a sealed system that keeps them inside the vacuum. It’s important to get the HEPA vacuum cleaner bags and filters, too. They do cost more, but they can make a big difference in managing your symptoms. It’s useful to know that you should:
- Vacuum often to prevent allergens from building up indoors.
- If possible, have someone who is not allergic do the vacuuming and dusting.
- Install clean pollen-removing filters in your heating and air-conditioning unit. Use your HVAC in allergy season to remove allergens from the home.
- For more tips read 15 Ways to Wage War at Home Against Pollen and Allergens.
5. Experiment with allergy meds
If you are confused about which allergy medications work best for various symptoms, it’s no wonder. There is a vast array of medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, that work in different ways to help relieve symptoms.
Decongestants, antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers and corticosteroids come in an array of forms — including pills, liquids, nasal sprays, eye drops, creams and inhalers. Each works slightly differently, and it may take some trial and error before you hit on the products that work best for you. Find a pharmacist you trust and have a conversation about your symptoms and which products you already have tried. Talk with an allergist or family doctor about the products that are available by prescription. Mayo Clinic offers this guide to allergy medications and how they work.
6. Stay indoors during the worst
You probably want to carry on as normal if you can. But the more allergens you are exposed to, the worse you are likely to feel. Warm and dry or windy days make pollen symptoms even worse.
If symptoms are getting you down, try staying indoors, at least while pollen counts are highest, in the middle of the day. Keep your home’s windows and doors closed. In the car, roll up the windows and set the vehicle’s fan to recirculate air rather than pulling it in from outdoors.
7. Change your exercise routine
During the thick of allergy season keep your eye on pollen counts by subscribing to a mobile app with alerts like the ones at Pollen.com or by watching the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s local pollen and spore levels online.
When allergy season strikes, try exercising indoors or consider skipping it altogether on days when pollen counts are high. If you must exercise outdoors, go early or near evening, since pollen counts fall at night and pick up in midmorning through afternoon. You won’t entirely avoid pollen but timing your exercise may help at peak allergy season. Seize the moment and get outdoors after a cleansing rainfall that drives pollens out of the air.
One more tip: Monitor your local air pollution levels and avoid busy roads when you are experiencing symptoms. Air-borne pollutants can make allergy symptoms worse.
What solutions have you discovered to alleviate allergy symptoms? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.