The smell of spring is in the air and that can only mean that pollen and ragweed are, too. These airborne allergens are responsible for the watery eyes, sneezing and runny nose we associate with spring allergies. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 20 million adults and more than 6 million children suffer from seasonal allergies, making many people dread the changing of the seasons.
But all is not lost. Dr. Mary Ann Michelis, chief of Allergy & Immunology at Hackensack Meridian Health, helped Best of NJ compile five easy tips to alleviate the symptoms of allergy season.
Avoid Your Allergy Triggers
Keep track of the daily pollen count, and when it’s elevated, do your best to stay inside. “Start outdoor activities after 10 a.m. since the highest pollen counts tend to be between 5 and 10 in the morning,” suggests Michelis. “If you need to garden, rake or mow lawns, wearing a mask can prevent inhaling pollens.”
The weather itself is also a great predictor of how much pollen will be in the air, Michelis says. “The showers that keep popping up, cloudy or windless days tend to keep the pollen counts down. Balmy, dry, warm days tend to keep pollens airborne and that makes sensitive patients more symptomatic.”
Another helpful tip is to cover your mattress and pillows, as both can serve as storage facilities for airborne allergens. Encasing them in plastic, anti-allergen covers can help ensure a good night’s sleep.
Keep the Fresh Air Out
One of the great pleasures of warmer weather is opening the windows and letting the fresh air in. But if you’re suffering from allergies, do yourself a favor and keep the windows shut, says Michelis.
“Windows should be kept closed when you sleep and in the morning. Also, keep car windows closed while you drive and put your air conditioning on because it filters the pollen out of the air.”
Remember to change your home air filters regularly and, if you can, splurge for high-efficiency filters that help trap even more airborne allergens.
Take Care of Your Nose
Because the nasal passages are so affected by seasonal allergies, it’s important to give them a little extra care. Using an over-the-counter nasal spray can ease symptoms and, if you use it before the symptoms set in, even prevent them.
You may also want to try rinsing with a saline solution, either in a squeeze bottle or neti pot, to help flush out the allergens from your nose.
Take Meds Early and Consistently
Over-the-counter allergy medications are effective and have few side effects. It is best, though, if you start taking them prior to experiencing symptoms. If you’ve already started experiencing symptoms, start your regimen and keep with it, even when you start to feel better.
“[These types of medications] need to be taken as indicated in the correct amounts for the age of the person,” Michelis says. “It is also important to check with your pharmacist that they don’t cross-react with other prescribed medication(s) or another medical condition. For example, some antihistamines should not be used if there is an enlarged prostate.”
Know When to See a Doctor
Because seasonal allergies can lead to sinus infections and affect asthma, if you can’t get your symptoms under control, it may be time to see a doctor. Your physician can test for particular allergies and develop a more complete picture of the issues you’re experiencing. Also, he or she can prescribe, if necessary, prescription-strength medications or develop a regimen of immunotherapy (such as allergy shots) to help relieve the current symptoms and potentially prevent those same symptoms from showing up next year.
With a little planning and some easy preventative measures, you can still enjoy the natural beauty of spring and its warmer weather, even if you’re prone to season allergies. However, you may want to avoid stopping and smelling the roses, at least until you’ve taken your meds.
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