Spring brings warmer temperatures and beautiful flowers, but for many it also brings seasonal allergies.
To help get you through allergy season, read on about what causes allergies, common symptoms, and ways to cope so you can get back to enjoying the warmer weather.
Allergies are the result of your body and your immune system negatively reacting to a substance called an allergen.
One of the most common forms of allergy is allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as seasonal allergies or hay fever.
Seasonal allergies typically occur in the spring, summer, or fall and have a wide range of indoor and outdoor triggers.
Common allergens include the following:
- Trees such as birch, oak, cedar, walnut, and hickory
- Grasses such as timothy, bermuda, and kentucky blue
- Weeds such as ragweed, sagebrush, and pigweed
- Dust mites
- Mold spores
- Pet dander
Allergies affect people differently; however, common symptoms include the following:
- Itchy eyes
- Congestion (stuffy nose)
- Runny nose
- Scratchy throat
- Breathing problems such as wheezing
- Asthma attacks
Get relief from seasonal allergies
To help keep you symptom-free this allergy season, use these 10 tips:
1. Identify if it’s really allergies
When temperatures fluctuate quickly (swinging from cold to warm), it can be hard to tell if your congestion is caused by allergies, a cold, or a virus.
If your congestion lasts more than two weeks, your symptoms increase after being exposed to a common trigger, or your eyes, nose, and throat are itchy, you might suspect allergies over a cold or virus. However, instead of turning to Google to diagnose the cause of your symptoms, visit a provider to see if you’re experiencing allergies.
2. Use over-the-counter medication
Over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants and antihistamines can help reduce allergy symptoms.
Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), phenylephrine (Sudafed PE), or oxymetazoline (Afrin) work by relieving congestion in your nose and sinuses. Oxymetazoline (Afrin) should only be used for 1-2 days.
Antihistamines alleviate allergy symptoms such as coughing, itching, or a runny nose. There are two types of antihistamines: first generation and second generation.
First-generation antihistamines include:
- Brompheniramine (Dimetapp)
- Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
Second-generation antihistamines include:
- Fexofenadine (Allegra)
- Loratadine (Claritin)
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
While they provide relief from allergy symptoms, using OTC medications can also produce side effects such as drowsiness, constipation, and rebound congestion. Speak with your provider about which OTC option is best for you.
3. Try a saline nasal rinse
Saline rinses can be done using either nasal sprays or a neti pot. Saline helps clear pollen from nasal passages to minimize allergy symptoms.
If nasal sprays bother you, try gargling a saline solution (salt water) twice a day to ease irritation and inflammation in your throat.
4. Stay indoors on windy days
Wind helps carry pollen through the air. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), pollen can travel up to 400 miles from its original source.
By staying inside on windy days if you’re allergic to pollen or have seasonal allergies, you can greatly reduce your symptoms.
If you suffer from allergies, the best time to be outside is after a rainy day. Rain helps clear the air of pollen by minimizing the pollen count.
5. Keep windows closed and use air conditioning
It’s best to keep your windows closed if you have seasonal outdoor allergies. Rather than coming into contact with a pollen-filled breeze, use an air conditioning unit to help circulate clean air throughout your home.
Alternatively, if you have indoor allergies such as pet dander, dust, or mold, open your windows to get some fresh air to clear out those indoor allergens.
Whether you suffer from indoor or outdoor allergies, using a furnace air filter specifically designed to trap allergens will also help reduce your symptoms.
6. Keep an eye on the pollen count
Local weather and radio stations forecast and report the pollen count — how much pollen is in the air — each day. If the count is high, you may want to stay indoors or wear a mask if you’re planning on going outside.
7. Remove pollen particles from your clothes, skin, and hair
After spending time outside, you’ll want to change your clothes and take a shower to remove pollen from your skin and hair. Change into clean clothing and leave your shoes by the door to avoid spreading allergens throughout your home.
8. Avoid outdoor tasks when possible
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, consider delegating your outdoor tasks to those who aren’t affected. Whether it’s mowing your lawn, pulling weeds, gardening, or hanging laundry outside, find someone who can help you.
9. Use a mask if you go outside
If you spend a lot of time outside, use a surgical mask to minimize your exposure to pollen and other allergens. When purchasing a mask look for “N95”. This number means the product meets the standards of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and filters out 95% of allergy-causing particles.
10. Focus on your well-being
Allergy symptoms can take a lot out of you. So, above all, focus on your own well-being and how you’re feeling. If you’re not feeling well, don’t overdo it. Listen to your body. If you’re tired, take a break and rest.
Visit a provider if your allergy symptoms don’t improve
Don’t let seasonal allergies stop you from enjoying the beautiful outdoors. Use our tips and tricks to help nip your symptoms in the bud.
However, if your allergy symptoms don’t improve, it’s time to visit a provider.