You can feel it in the air -- spring allergies are fast approaching. With the changing of the seasons comes an increase of pollen and mold in the environment, which means a lot of people are going to be reaching for a box of tissues. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), pollen season can begin as early as February and last through October, although weather patterns and your location can alter the start and end dates. If you're already dreading the return of sneezing, sniffles, stuffiness and itchy, watery or dry eyes, take steps to keep allergy symptoms from activating your immune system.
See An Allergist Before Spring Allergies Start
Don't wait for allergy symptoms to make you miserable before seeing your allergist, advises Jaime Landman, M.D., president of Florida Center for Allergy and Asthma Care in Miami. "You should start drugs, which were previously effective, early in the season, before pollen peaks. This should be before we start seeing pollen in trees throughout the country in February, and possibly January for southern states like Florida. We are mainly referring to <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-center/over-the-counter-medicines-for-allergies.aspx" target="_blank">antihistamines</a>, ideally not the ones that make you drowsy." Jordan S. Josephson, M.D., ear, nose and throat specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author of Sinus Relief Now, encourages people to see an allergy or sinus specialist before pollen counts rise, even if previous attempts at treatment weren't successful. "There are newer treatments and combinations of therapy that may offer renewed hope for feeling better," Dr. Josephson says.
Stay On The 'Outs' With Pollen
Enjoy a respite from spring allergies inside your home by shutting out pollen. As tempting as it may be to let the spring breeze in, keep doors and windows closed to minimize allergy symptoms. When spring cleaning, focus on areas in your home where allergens tend to accumulate -- air filters, bedding, upholstered furniture and carpeting. Vacuum often -- floors, furniture, rugs -- and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Try these other tips: · Change clothes once you get home, says Dr. Landman. Pollen sticks to fabric, and you could end up spreading pollen spores throughout your home. (Avoid hanging clothes outside to dry for the same reason.) · Shower before bed, Josephson urges. Transferring allergens from your hair or face to your pillow can make matters worse. · Change the filters on your air conditioning unit frequently and use a high efficiency grade filter.
Mold-Proof Your Home
Pollen isn't the only <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/allergies/enjoy-springtime-even-with-allergies.aspx" target="_blank">spring allergy</a> culprit. Mold can also kick your allergy symptoms into overdrive. The AAAAI recommends keeping mold out of your home by focusing on areas where mold is most common -- basements, bathrooms, kitchens and any areas with leaks. Here's more: · <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/allergies/mold.aspx" target="_blank">Remove mold</a> from hard surfaces with water and detergent. If a mixture of water and 5-percent bleach is needed, be sure not to mix the bleach with other cleansers. · Wash fabric materials with soap and water. If the mold cannot be cleaned out, it's best to discard the item. · Repair and seal leaks in pipes, windows or roofs. · If you use a dehumidifier, be sure to empty the water often and keep the unit clean to prevent mildew. · If mold returns to an area that has been cleaned, check for leaks or a lack of proper ventilation.
Plan Your Schedule To Dodge Peak Allergy Hours
As frustrating as it may be, try to plan your schedule so that you can avoid <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/allergies/outdoor-activities-and-your-allergies.aspx" target="_blank">outdoor activities</a> when the pollen count is highest, typically 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. says Landman. When making plans to spend time outside during allergy season, keep in mind that hot, dry days will have a greater amount of pollen in the environment than cold, rainy days, he adds.
Track Allergen Levels
Check the Web sites of your favorite weather stations during allergy season to see if they offer daily pollen and mold count reports. If your allergist has a site, chances are you can find the information listed there as well. Bookmark your favorite sites on your computer for easy daily access. If you use a smart phone, download a weather app that also provides pollen and mold count reports. The <a href="http://www.weather.com/" target="_blank">Weather Channel</a> app offers this feature.
Consider Nasal Irrigation
Talk with your doctor about nasal irrigation options, like a low-tech yet effective <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/ear-nose-throat/neti-pots.aspx" target="_blank">neti pot</a>. A study of 211 patients from the University of California San Diego Nasal Dysfunction Clinic concluded that participants experienced relief from 23 out of 30 nasal symptoms after using nasal irrigation two times each day for 3 to 6 weeks. "Irrigating your nose and sinuses using a Neilmed Netipot or a Grossan Hydropulse will help to wash the spring allergens out of your nose as allergy seasons starts," says Josephson. "This will alleviate symptoms like <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/allergy-pictures/why-we-sneeze-and-other-fun-facts-about-sneezing.aspx" target="_blank">sneezing</a>, itching, sinus headaches, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, hoarseness and feeling run down or fatigued before they start because it will protect your sinus membranes from the spring allergens." Just be certain to use bottled or filtered water in your neti pot, since using it with tap water has been linked to dangerous brain infections.
Try Acupuncture For Spring Allergies
A study published in the <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/all.12053/full" target="_blank">European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology</a>, found significant reduction of <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/allergy/acupuncture-may-help-seasonal-allergies-study-finds-6762.aspx" target="_blank">allergy symptoms for study participants who received acupuncture</a> treatments 3 times per week for 4 weeks, as compared to participants who did not receive it. Kelly LeGendre, LAc, owner of The Fix Community Acupuncture in Tucson, Ariz., says the earlier you start acupuncture as a proactive measure to treat allergies, the better. "It can take a little while to correct the underlying imbalances that allow the symptoms to develop, and that time varies based on the severity of the imbalance. There should definitely be a noticeable reduction in symptoms after a few months, but severe cases may require ongoing treatment." Acupuncture can also help if allergies have already flared. "If you wait until you're experiencing symptoms, I can usually reduce or resolve symptoms such as runny nose, coughing, sneezing, wheezing and red, itchy eyes, but you may need to continue treatment throughout the allergy season to maintain improvements."
"7 Ways To Prepare For Spring Allergies" originally appeared on Everyday Health.