How to Get Through a Tough Season
The sun is shining, the sky is brilliant blue and the mild temperatures of spring just beckon you to go outside. But, if you have seasonal allergies, it might be tough to fully enjoy the wonderful season between winter and summer. What can you do to get through it?
Let’s start with a definition. Unlike allergies to pet dander, shellfish and any number of other things — which occur year-round — seasonal allergies are, as the name suggests, limited to a particular season. Also called hay fever and allergic rhinitis, spring seasonal allergies are triggered by flower buds and blooming trees. While many people welcome this annual rebirth, it may mean sneezing, congestion, a runny nose and other bothersome symptoms to you.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you do have options other than resorting to plastic flowers and artificial turf, starting with reducing your exposure to allergy triggers. That means:
- Stay inside on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
- Delegate lawn mowing, weed pulling and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.
- Remove the clothes you’ve worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
- Don’t hang laundry outside, since pollen can stick to sheets and towels.
- Wear a pollen mask if you do outside chores.
When pollen counts are high — something you can learn from a quick internet search or the local media — take allergy medication before your symptoms start. Also close doors and windows, and avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
You also need to keep indoor air clean, something you can do by using air conditioning — plus high-efficiency filters — a dehumidifier and a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom. It can also be helpful to clean your floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter.
What about medication? That’s definitely an option, and there are plenty of over-the-counter choices available:
- Oral antihistamines — to relieve sneezing, itching, a runny nose and watery eyes
- Decongestants — to provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness
- Nasal spray — to ease allergy symptoms, although cromolyn sodium is most effective when used before they start
- Combination medications — those that combine an antihistamine with a decongestant
If your allergies are still bothersome even after you’ve self-medicated, you might see your doctor, who may suggest testing to determine what specifically triggers your symptoms. Knowing that can help identify the treatments that are likely to work best for you — and you’ll know what to stay away from.
Another option is allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots), which involves regular injections containing tiny amounts of the substances that cause your allergies. Over time, your immune system will be desensitized, so it reacts less — or not at all — to them.
What’s the takeaway? If you’re allergic to peanuts or cats, you stay away from those triggers — but you certainly don’t want to miss out on being outdoors because your seasonal allergies act up. The good news is you don’t have to; you have options that will allow you to get out there and enjoy all the wonderfulness that is spring.