With springtime comes rain, flowers and lots of pollen. Hello, seasonal allergies.
The constant runny or stuffy nose, the endless sneezing and itchy eyes — it can all be overwhelming.
Also known as hay fever, seasonal allergies are split into two types: allergic rhinitis and non-allergic rhinitis. To find out if you’re one of its victims, you’ll need to be tested by a doctor and can be given long-term relief in the form of an immunotherapy shot or a set of tablets.
Allergic rhinitis is a reaction in your immune system when your body inhales an allergen, such as pollen, and then releases histamines, neurotransmitters produced by the body as an inflammatory response. Allergic rhinitis is also a risk factor for asthma, a chronic lung disease that affects up to 25 million people, and narrows or inflames airways for breathing. This is most prevalent in the fall and spring, due to dust mites, autumn winds blowing ragweed — which affects up to 20% of Americans and grows throughout the country — and springtime’s blooming plants.
The World Allergy Organization estimates that up to 30% of the worldwide population suffers from allergic rhinitis, and that the rate is only increasing.
Meanwhile, non-allergic rhinitis does not involve the immune system and can cause symptoms year-round due to temperature change or air pollution.
Below, we’ve put together the daily steps you can take to stop sneezing pretty much everywhere.
1. Check the pollen count for the day.
Before starting your day, you should check out an online pollen count like Pollen.com for your city. The pollen count is the concentration of grains of pollen for each cubic meter of air. This way, if the levels are moderate or high, you can cancel your stroll through the park. But if you must garden, consider wearing a pollen mask to cover your nose and mouth and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
According to the University of Oregon’s health center, pollen counts are highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. — now you have an excuse to sleep in.
2. Get to the drugstore.
It’s easy to find allergy relief at the drugstore. Antihistamine nasal spray or tablets can stop runny or itchy noses, and often work best before you start to feel the symptoms. Decongestants, on the other hand, cut down the fluid that lines your nose, allowing you to breathe easier. For irritated eyes, antihistamine eye drops can help.
But if you’re a little more holistic, there are some ways to avoid the pharmacy.
3. Leave your shoes at the door.
When entering your home, take off your shoes to avoid tracking pollen all over the place.
4. Change your ventilation filters.
Make sure your filters have been changed at the appropriate time so they work properly. Cover them with a cheesecloth for extra filtration. Avoid the use of fans to stir up air.
5. Close the windows and turn on your AC.
Leaving your windows open will allow for allergens to blow into your house. Escape soundly from the pollen by closing your car and home windows, and using your AC instead.
6. Decrease your home’s humidity.
Humidity should be below 60% in order to decrease the growth of mold, a common allergen, according to the EPA. In damp places, consider setting up a dehumidifier.
7. Put away rugs and vacuum.
Execute your spring cleaning with a new purpose by vacuuming once a week to catch dust mites and pollen that found their ways indoors. And don’t forget your to clear your drapes of dust. Consider rolling up your rugs and carpets, which can easily trap such allergens.
8. Wash your bedsheets.
In order to kill dust mites that collect in your bed, wash your pillowcases and sheets at least once a week in hot water. A 1992 study found that sheets washed in water hotter than 131 degrees Fahrenheit killed all mites.
9. Suit up your bedroom.
Allergen-proof pillowcase and mattress covers are often used to block dust mites. A 2004 study that created such a controlled environment for children with asthma found that their contact with dust mites were significantly decreased, helping their asthma.
Good Housekeeping tested a bunch of these allergy barriers, and found that non-porous fabric or microfiber polyester fabric work best.
10. Regularly wash your hands and hair.
Consider washing your hands more frequently to keep them clean of any allergens you may have picked up. Washing your hair at night keeps your pillows clean.
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