Stop Sneezing Your Way Through Spring

April 5, 2019

If you’re one of the more than 50 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, “spring” might be more of a curse word than a cause for celebration.

Also called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergies are characterized by sneezing, congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes and throat, and wheezing, among other equally unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms are caused by various types of pollen, which elicit an unnecessary immune response when some people’s bodies wrongly perceive the pollen as a threat.

Because pollen is such a small particle that easily goes airborne, it’s nearly impossible to avoid during spring. There are many ways, though, to minimize your exposure and keep those pesky allergies under control.

  • Embrace spring showers. Dry, windy days are the best conditions for the spread of pollen. Keep time outside to a minimum on these days, and save it for after a good rain. The falling water is excellent at clearing pollen from the air.
  • Embrace other showers. If you do spend time outside when pollen counts are high, remove your clothing and rinse pollen from your hair and skin as soon as you get inside. This will avoid prolonged exposure and limit the amount of pollen that’s spread around your home.
  • Wait it out (inside). Pollen counts are highest in the morning between 5 am and 10 am, and again at dusk. Use this window for any outdoor activities you can’t avoid. If you must be outside during the peak pollen hours, wear a pollen mask.
  • Get a head start. Check the news or your weather app for the pollen forecast, and start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start on particularly pollen-heavy days.

However, minimizing time spent outdoors is only helpful if there is less pollen indoors. To ensure this, take a few steps to safeguard your home against pollen. Be sure to keep doors and windows closed, especially during peak pollen hours. Use a portable HEPA filter in your bedroom and any other rooms in which you spend a lot of time; also use a vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly to collect allergens from carpets, rugs and furniture. When driving, run the air conditioning in your car and close vents to circulate clean air instead of pulling in pollen from outside.

Alternative Remedies

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you’ve probably already found the over-the-counter allergy medicine that works best for you. But if you’re trying to avoid relying on drugs to ease your symptoms, or if you’re looking for additional help, give these alternative treatments a try:

  • Sinus rinse – using a saline solution to irrigate your nasal passages can rinse out mucus, bacteria, and allergens like pollen. (Plus, it’s really fun to use a miniature teapot in your nose.)
  • Acupuncture – while the thought of needles might make some people uneasy, acupuncture has been found to be an effective treatment for many. Some even see results after the very first treatment.
  • Herbal supplements – available as capsules, drops, or tea, several natural supplements can improve allergy symptoms. Try green tea, butterbur, or licorice root, but check with your doctor first.
  • Dietary changes – believe it or not, many foods can make your seasonal allergies worse. Dried fruit and certain dairy products can worsen nasal congestion; those allergic to ragweed and other weed pollens should avoid eating melon, banana, cucumber, sunflower seeds, and chamomile.

Everyone should be able to look forward to spring after a long and dreary winter. We hope you’ve found some useful tips for managing your seasonal allergies!