Tips to Beat Allergy Season
After a long winter, the start of spring can feel like a dream. That is, until seasonal allergies set in. Nearly 20 million people in America struggle with seasonal allergic rhinitis, better known as hay fever, which leads to sneezing, stuffiness, watery eyes and an itchy or runny nose. If you’re one of them, these facts and tips might help.
What’s Causing Your Allergies?
Probably pollen. Mold spores can also make you sick. When these outdoor allergens are circulating in the air, your immune system registers them as enemies and creates antibodies as a defense. The antibodies prompt your cells to release histamine and other chemicals, which make you sneezy, itchy and congested. (That’s why some allergy meds are called antihistamines.)
How Can You Limit Your Exposure?
Managing allergies shouldn’t take over your life. You have other things to do. That said, there are steps you can take to avoid or ease symptoms.
Try these strategies:
- Each day, check online or use a weather app to figure out the forecasted pollen count, which tells you how much pollen is in the air. If the number is high, keep your windows closed and try to reduce your time outside. This is especially true on windy, dry days, when your symptoms may be worse; rain, on the other hand, removes pollen from the air.
- If you do spend time outdoors, shower and wash your hair when you get home to remove the pollen from your body, and be sure to put on fresh clothes.
- Leave yardwork like lawn mowing and gardening to someone else in your household, if possible, or ask a neighbor or friend to help.
- Regularly wash your sheets and comforter in hot water, ideally once a week.
- To reduce pollen and other allergens that find a way inside your home, use an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom and clean your rugs and floors frequently with a vacuum that contains a HEPA filter. And remember to replace filters regularly. Many manufacturers suggest buying a new HEPA filter for your air purifier annually, but it’s best to check the manual for specific timing. You’ll likely need to replace your vacuum’s HEPA filter about every six months, but again, check the manual to be sure.
What Medicines Ease Allergies?
There’s a range of over-the-counter options that can help you feel better, such as:
Antihistamines. Lots of people take oral antihistamines, like pills or liquids, but you can also find them as nasal sprays. These meds block histamine and can tame sneezing, itchiness and a runny nose. But they may not be the strongest option when it comes to reducing nasal stuffiness. Betr’s All Day Allergy Relief is an antihistamine that offers 24-hour relief from allergy symptoms. Our medicine contains cetirizine hydrochloride, the same active ingredient you’ll find in Zyrtec, and is made in the United States. If allergy symptoms are keeping you up at night, try Betr’s Nighttime Allergy Relief, which has the same active ingredient as Benadryl.
Nasal corticosteroids. These sprays decrease swelling and mucus in your nasal passages and can help reduce all seasonal allergy symptoms, especially the ones that affect your nose, like stuffiness or runniness. Nasal sprays can make it easier to breathe. Betr’s Allergy Relief Nasal Spray is made with fluticasone propionate, the same active ingredient in Flonase.
Decongestants. These medicines can be taken by mouth or via nasal spray. They offer some relief from stuffiness, but you shouldn’t use decongestant sprays for more than three days in a row. Otherwise, they can actually have the opposite effect and make your congestion worse.
Are There Any Other Strategies That Work?
There sure are. Here are a few examples:
Rinsing out your sinuses. You can use a neti pot—which looks like a mini teapot with a lengthy spout—filled with a saline solution to cleanse your nasal passages. This directly flushes out any mucus or allergens wreaking havoc in your nose. But it’s crucially important that you use sterile or distilled water; water that’s been boiled and then left to cool; or water that has been poured through a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller.
Acupuncture. There is some evidence that acupuncture helps relieve seasonal allergies. During acupuncture, extremely thin needles are inserted into the body at specific points, which some believe stimulate your nerves, muscles and tissues and boost your body’s natural ability to heal. Some theorize that acupuncture can modulate your body’s immune response, lessening allergy symptoms, but more research is needed. It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor first about whether this is a good fit for you.
Allergy shots. If your symptoms are severe, immunotherapy may be an option. Gradually, these injections, which include small amounts of allergens, can lessen your body’s immune response, easing or entirely eliminating your symptoms. You may even be able to opt for tablets instead of a shot.
Hopefully, these tips help you steer clear of seasonal allergies so you can enjoy the sunshine, warmer weather, budding trees and blooming flowers—without reaching for a box of tissue.
Mayo Clinic staff. (2020). Seasonal allergies: Nip them in the bud.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (2015). Pollen allergy.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2019). Seasonal allergies at a glance.
The Food and Drug Administration. (2017). Is rinsing your sinuses with neti pots safe?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Allergies and hay fever.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Ritual nasal rinsing & ablution.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (2020). Rhinitis (hay fever).
Tim Heffernan. Wirecutter. (2021). The Best Air Purifier.
Emily Fazio. HGTV. (2021). How to clean your vacuum filters.
Beko. How often should I replace my vacuum cleaner filters?
Shark. HEPA Filter.
Bao, Haipeng; Si, Dongxu; Gao, Longxia; Sun, Huizhuo; Shi, Qi; Yan, Yue; Damchaaperenlei, Dashzeveg; Li, Chunlei; Yu, MingXia; Li, Youlin. (2018). Acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis.
Bettina Hauswald and Yury M. Yarin. (2014). Acupuncture in allergic rhinitis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4479426/
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Acupuncture.
Mayo Clinic. (2020). Acupuncture.
Annals of Internal Medicine. (2013). The effects of acupuncture on seasonal allergic rhinitis.
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