Posted by: Kelley Dees | May 12, 2011

Springtime Pollen and Allergies: How to nip it in the bud!

Spring brings flowers, beautifully blooming trees, and…sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and other symptoms. These allergies are caused by the pollen in the plants that are blooming. Allergies can make you feel miserable.

Do you feel like the only way to prevent these symptoms is to lock yourself inside away from anything that has pollen? Before you resort to those drastic measures, try these simple strategies to keep those allergies under control!

Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers: There are several things you can do to reduce your exposure to allergens (things that trigger your allergy signs and symptoms):

  • Delegate lawn mowing, weed pulling, and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.
  • Remove clothes you’ve worn outside; you may also want to shower after extended periods of time outside, to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
  • Don’t hang laundry outside–pollen can stick to sheets, towels, and your clothes.
  • Wear a dust mask if you do outside chores.
  • Wear sunglasses while outside. Not only will this protect your vision (if you’re using UV protection sunglasses), but it also lessens the amount of pollen that can get on your eyelashes, which is what causes those dry, itchy eyes.

Take extra steps when pollen counts are high: Major flare-ups can occur when pollen counts are higher than usual. Take these steps to reduce your exposure on high count days:

  • Check your local TV or radio station, your local newspaper, or the internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels.
  • If high pollen counts are forecasted, start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start.
  • Close doors and windows at night or any other time when pollen counts are high.
  • Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are at their highest levels.

Keep indoor air clean: While there isn’t anything that can completely eliminate all of the allergens in your home, these suggestions can help you decrease the amounts present in your home:

  • Use the air conditioning in your house and car.
  • If you have forced air heating or air conditioning in your house, use high-efficiency filters and follow regular maintenance schedules.
  • Keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier.
  • Use a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom.
  • Clean floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter.

Try an OTC (over-the-counter) remedy: There are several non-prescription medications out there that can help ease allergy symptoms. Talk to your friends to find out their experiences with different ones and discuss your symptoms with your pharmacist to find out which product helps fight your symptoms:

  • Oral antihistamines: Antihistamines can help relieve sneezing, itching, runny nose, and watery eyes. Examples include loratadine (Brand name Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton).  Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton, and their respective generics are effective, but may make you drowsy.
  • Decongestants: Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness. Decongestants also come in nasal sprays such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) and phenylephrine (Vicks, Sinex). Only use nasal decongestants for short-term relief. Long-term use of decongestant nasal sprays can actually worsen symptoms (also called rebound congestion).
  • Cromolyn spray: Cromolyn (Nasalcrom) can ease allergy symptoms, but it may take up to a week of several sprays per day to begin working.
  • Combination medications: A number of allergy medications combine an antihistamine with a decongestant. Examples include Actifed and Claritin-D, which both combine different antihistamines with decongestants.

Rinse your sinuses: Rinsing your nasal passages with salt water (also called nasal irrigation) is an easy, inexpensive, and effective way to relieve stubborn allergy symptoms. Rinsing directly flushes mucus and irritants out of your nose. You can purchase a squeeze bottle or neti pot (a small container with a spout designed for nasal rinsing) at your local pharmacy.

When home remedies aren’t enough: When these suggestions don’t work, talk to your doctor. Be sure to keep track of which remedies you have tried, how long you used that method, and what the results were–your doctor will want you to try non-medicinal methods before prescribing something stronger (which will also come with more side effects). If you’ve kept track of what you’ve tried, you can discuss your diagnosis more thoroughly and accurately with your doctor.

Don't let this be your solution to springtime allergies!

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

This information is adapted from the Mayo Clinic. 

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