Spring can bring on the achoos, and this year more than ever as the pollen in the air is off-the-charts high. While staying indoors for those without dust allergies can stem the sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes, there's hope for those who venture outdoors.
The Mayo Clinic offers tips to help allergy sufferers reduce the irritating symptoms from pollen and other allergens that trigger our immune systems to go into overdrive.
1. Reduce exposure to pesky pollen
- Stay indoors on dry, windy days, when there's loads of pollen and mold in the air. Best time to step outdoors is just after a rain, which helps to clear pollen from the air.
- Delegate lawn-mowing and weed-pulling to allergy-immune relatives, since these gardening chores stir up allergens. Or if you have to go solo, wear a dust mask while outside.
- Since you track pollen on clothes and shoes when you return indoors, remove clothes worn outside and for extra defensive measures, shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
- You might have to say "no" to Fido. Pollen clings to pet fur, so it's best to ban your dogs and cats from your bed or couch during allergy season.
- Don't hang laundry outside, as pollen can stick to sheets and towels.
- If pollen counts are unusually high, start taking your allergy medications before the sneezing-and-coughing begin. During these times also avoid outdoor activity in mornings when pollen counts are highest.
2. Keep indoor air clean
- Tiny granules of pollen and other allergens have ways of sneaking indoors, so to keep them out run the air conditioning (which uses a filter) in your house and car.
- Keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier.
- Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom.
- Clean floors with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or HEPA filter.
3. Spring cleaning has never been more important. Here are a few additional steps to help keep out dust mites (if you are allergic):
- Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in allergy-proof covers.
- Wash sheets and blankets in water heated to at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius).
- Vacuum carpets weekly.
- Replace carpeting with laminate flooring or another hard material that won't collect dust mites and other allergens, especially in your bedroom.
These measures could be enough for many allergy sufferers. But if your seasonal allergies continue to irritate you, the Mayo Clinic suggests you might need skin tests or blood tests to find out exactly what allergens trigger your symptoms. That way you can figure out how to avoid these specific triggers and also help your doctor determine the best treatments.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.