For allergy sufferers, spring can be the worst time of year, one where a runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes and wheezing can be a chronic drag. There are drugs to take, but is popping pills the only option? There are other effective tips for controlling the symptoms of allergies season.
There are three main forms of dealing with allergy season: medication (either over the counter or prescription), immunotherapy (allergy shots) and decreasing one’s exposure to pollen, the main allergen that makes spring the least favorite season for many. Tackling the last one should be the first course of action to prevent the need for the first two. There are some proven tricks allergy specialists recommend to mitigating the exposure to allergens.
Here are some common allergens that are particularly pernicious for allergy sufferers this time of year:
- Spring pollen allergies are often due to tree pollen. Summer allergies are typically caused by grass and weed pollen. Allergies in the fall are largely from ragweed. Pollen allergies are generally worse on hot, dry days when the wind carries the pollen. Rain offers some relief because it washes some of the pollen to the ground.
- Mold can be a problem where water collects, such as window moldings, shower curtains and damp basements. Outside, mold can be found in rotting logs, mulch, hay, piles of compost, commercial peat moss and in rotting leaves.
- Animal dander comes from the skin, saliva, and urine of cats and dogs. Even those who are not “allergic to” cats or dogs may have some allergic reactions to dander certain times of year or if allowed to accumulate in dust and pet beds.
- Dust contains a lot of allergens (besides dander in pet homes). The most common are dust mites, which are tiny creatures in mattresses, bedding, carpeting and upholstered furniture that thrive on dead skin cells and other things found in dust around a home.
Here are some simple tips for surviving this allergy season that help avoid exacerbating the likelihood of encountering allergens without resorting to medications:
- Pay attention to pollen counts in the area. In some parts of the country, pollen counts are highest right after dawn and dusk. People with pollen allergies should avoid exercising or gardening outside during those peak periods.
- Avoid going outside on dry, windy days. Keep windows and doors shut, and use an air conditioner in the house or car (or recycled air) to ventilate without letting pollens in.
- Shower or bathe before going to bed to wash off any pollens or other allergens in your hair and on skin before transferring it to a pillow and breathing them in.
- Mold in a house can be reduced by removing house plants and frequently cleaning shower curtains, damp walls, areas showing signs of dry rot and indoor trash cans. A mix of water and chlorine bleach can kill mold. Unfortunately, one way to prevent mold is keeping doors and windows open, which conflicts with advice to minimize pollen exposure for those with both problems.
- Leave shoes at the door to avoid spreading any allergens on them through the house.
- To help reduce pet dander, use allergen-resistant bedding, bathe pets frequently, and use an air filter.
- To reduce dust mites in a home, experts recommend removing drapes, carpets, feather pillows, upholstered furniture, non-washable comforters and soft toys. Since that may be unrealistic, mop and wipe surfaces regularly with a damp cloth. Vacuum regularly using a machine with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Do not just vacuum floors; vacuum soft furniture and curtains. If possible, periodically shampoo carpets and upholstery too. Wash bedding in hot water every seven to ten days.
- Try to minimize stress. A recent study found that those with higher stress levels can have more frequent or more intense allergy flare ups.
Hopefully, these proven tips and tricks will help allergy sufferers in surviving the predatory pollen season.
By Dyanne Weiss