While most people look forward to warm spring weather, some approach it with dread. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, spring can bring miserable symptoms, including sneezing, nasal congestion, burning eyes, and runny nose. Here are some tips for minimizing the effects of seasonal allergies this spring.
- Stay inside on windy, dry days.
- Remove clothing you’ve worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your hair and skin.
- Avoid hanging laundry outside to dry.
- Wear a pollen mask when doing outside chores.
- Use high-efficiency filters with forced-air heating or air conditioning in your home.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep indoor air dry.
- Use a portable HEPA filter inside your bedroom.
- Clean your floors often using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
- Monitor your local news and stay inside when pollen counts are high.
- Take a shower before you go to sleep to keep pollen off your bedding.
Medications that Can Help Seasonal Allergies
There are a variety of over-the-counter medications that can ease allergy symptoms. These include:
Oral antihistamines: These can help relieve itching, sneezing, watery eyes and runny nose. Examples include loratadine (Alavert, Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy) and cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy).
Decongestants: Oral decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Afrinol, Sudafed, others) can help relieve nasal stuffiness. Decongestants also come in nasal sprays, such as phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine) and oxymetazoline (Afrin). It’s best to use nasal decongestants for only a few days in a row since long-term use can cause rebound congestion.
Nasal sprays: Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can help relieve allergy symptoms without serious side effects. It’s most effective if you start using it before you experience symptoms.
Combination medications: Certain allergy-fighting medications combine a decongestant with an antihistamine. Examples include fexofenadine-pseudoephedrine (Allegra-D) and loratadine-pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D).
How To Rinse Your Sinuses
One quick, effective and inexpensive way to relieve nasal congestion is to rinse your nasal passages with saline. This can help flush away mucus and allergens.
Look for a neti pot or squeeze bottle at your local health food store or pharmacy.
Bear in mind that, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), improper use of neti pots and other nasal rinsing devices can lead to serious infections. It’s very important to use water that’s sterile, distilled, previously boiled and cooled. You should also be sure to thoroughly rinse the irrigation device after every use with similarly sterile, distilled, previously boiled and cooled water and leave the device open to air-dry.
When to See a Doctor for Seasonal Allergies
If over-the-counter medications aren’t enough to ease your allergy symptoms, see your doctor. He or she may recommend blood tests or skin tests to help identify the exact cause of your symptoms. You may benefit from allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy) that can help desensitize your immune response to specific triggers.