14 tactics to reduce spring allergy symptoms
Ah… spring. The sounds of birds chirping, the flowers blooming. The people out-and-about enjoying the warming weather. The energy is palpable.
Here at Curex, we understand that spring is not without its fears and frustrations. Because with
April showers come May flowers — and unforgiving allergies.
In light of these pollen-induced challenges, our Curex allergists have put together their top tips for reducing spring allergies.
Springtime is marked by the opening day of baseball, longer days and the blooming of plants and flowers. And while we happen to love the warmer days and beautiful blooms, we can’t say we love pollen because it’s the reason we suffer from spring allergies.
While summer and fall are all about mold, fungi and ragweed allergies, spring is the season of pollen allergies — especially tree and grass pollens.
If your nose is itchy, your eyes are watery and your sinuses are irritated in the spring, you may be suffering from pollen allergies.
And while we may not be able to engineer pollen-less plants (the bees would probably be pretty upset), we can prevent spring allergies in other ways.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to reduce spring allergy symptoms. From monitoring pollen and weather conditions to allergy medications and preventing allergies with immunotherapy, there are more than a dozen ways to treat or prevent spring allergies.
Monitor pollen counts closely and consider staying indoors when counts are high.
Pollen counts are often highest during early morning hours as well as on dry, windy days. Both conditions may allow pollen to stay suspended in the air. Pollen is also more likely to be blown around in large quantities. Going outside after a rainstorm is ideal as the soaked pollen is cleared from the air.
Most weather apps and websites report pollen counts in addition to the weather forecast. Before going outside for the day, check and monitor pollen counts and plan your day accordingly.
Consider wearing a mask if you spend a lot of time outdoors when counts are high — or if you need to do lawn work or gardening. It may be best to assign those chores to others until the counts are better controlled.
While not all masks are equally effective at preventing pollen particles from flying into your nose and mouth, most masks may prevent larger particles from doing so.
Pollen can blow into your eyes, nose and mouth, which is why there so many respiratory symptoms related to allergies. Keeping your eyes covered with large sunglasses may also help prevent some seasonal allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose and watery eyes.
When pollen blows through the air, it may stick to most surfaces — especially soft surfaces, such as clothing and hair. You may not realize that you’re covered in pollen, but you may notice allergy symptoms worsen after spending time outdoors.
When you walk through the front door, immediately remove your clothes and shower.
This will help wash the sticky pollen from your hair and skin. Rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution (for example, Simply SalineTM, NeilMed® or Sinus Rinse®) will also help remove allergens and irritants.
Saline solutions may help clear and limit nasal drainage production.
When it comes to pollen, not all weather conditions are created equal. Some days pollen counts are manageable and we can spend a little more time outdoors, and some weather conditions may create the perfect storm for allergy symptoms.
Before planning a picnic or RSVPing yes to an outdoor concert, check the weather.
Dry, windy days are trouble for sufferers of pollen allergies. Pollen, an airborne allergen, gets blown around on dry and windy days, making it more likely to end up in your eyes, nose and mouth. Pollen is also sticky, so it can cling to surfaces (especially soft ones), such as your skin, clothes and hair.
The best weather conditions for pollen allergy sufferers are humid and rainy days when the pollen may become suspended and get pushed to the ground by rain and washed away.
Most weather apps and websites report pollution counts in addition to the weather and pollen counts. While pollution may not cause spring allergies, it may exacerbate them.
Studies show that pollution (such as smog, heavy metals and other airborne particulates) may worsen spring allergy symptoms, especially in allergic rhinitis.
If you suffer from respiratory conditions, such as asthma, your symptoms may worsen in conjunction with high pollution counts and high pollen counts. If you live in a city or area of the country where pollution levels are high and air quality is low, check the pollution forecast before leaving the house for the day — and consider staying inside.
Allergies share symptoms with other conditions, meaning your symptoms may not be caused by allergies at all — but something else entirely.
Even if you’re certain your symptoms are caused by allergies, you may simply want to understand what you’re allergic to. After all, knowledge is power, and understanding your allergies may help you avoid some triggers altogether.
There are three ways to get tested for allergies, including a skin scratch test at a doctor’s or allergen’s office, a blood test at a lab or a finger prick test you can take at home.
Get tested for pollen, grass, pet, pest allergies (and more!) with Curex’s at-home allergy testing kit and discover once and for all which allergens are major symptom triggers.
Studies show that high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters may reduce airborne allergens (of 0.3-micron diameter in size) by up to 98%. They may also reduce indoor allergens, such as dust, mold and bacteria particles in the air by up to 98%.
HEPA filters are available for vacuums, air conditioners and fans. Some central air and HVAC systems also use HEPA filters.
These filters trap allergens floating around in the air (or near the vacuum) and contain them. If allergens are contained in a filter, they’re less likely to end up in your respiratory system or on your skin.
Pollen can blow around outdoors, but it may also blow right into your home if your windows and doors aren’t closed.
Keep house doors and windows closed, especially during peak pollen times. If you use window air conditioning units, prevent pollen from getting inside through gaps between the unit and the windowsill by using installation kits to keep all things outdoors outside.
If the temperature gets too hot inside, consider turning on fans and air conditioning units with HEPA filters to keep the climate comfortable (and the pollen outside).
Keep car windows up as well and consider using your car’s air conditioning to cool your car on high-pollen count days.
Avoid drying clothes and linens outside since pollen can stick to fabrics and transfer to other surfaces in your home.
Try to keep anything that belongs indoors inside during spring allergy season, as pollen can and will affix to anything that leaves your home (including cars, pets, lawn furniture, towels and more).
Remember that any time you enter your home, you may be tracking pollen through each room you enter. Contain pollen to a mudroom or entryway by removing shoes, clothes and outerwear before entering the house to avoid tracking pollen throughout your home.
Pollen can also stick to pet fur.
Be careful around furry pets that spend a great deal of time outdoors. Just as pollen can stick to your clothes, it can also stick to your furry friends. While it may not be possible to give your dogs a bath after every walk, you may want to keep a towel next to the entryway to wipe down their fur.
If pets also spend a lot of time inside, keeping them brushed and bathed regularly will help decrease the amount of pollen they bring with them.
Some pet owners don’t allow outdoor pets on soft furniture (such as the sofa or beds), as pollen may become embedded in fabrics.
Use air-conditioning regularly while at home or driving. High-efficiency filters that are regularly maintained and replaced will help remove pollen and can improve pollen allergies.
Using an air conditioner may also help keep pollen from blowing inside your home during spring allergy season, since windows won’t need to be open for air to circulate.
Vacuum regularly using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. This will help remove pollen brought inside by pets or people. Wipe down all surfaces, vacuum and mop hard floors and vacuum soft surfaces, such as couches and drapes. Wash bed linens weekly.
Try to do this once or twice a week (minimum) during pollen season.
Use an over-the-counter intranasal steroid spray (e.g. Flonase® or generic fluticasone propionate or Nasacort® or generic triamcinolone acetonide) two weeks prior to the start of allergy season.
Steroid sprays work best if used daily as a preventative.
Pre-medicating with a non-sedating antihistamine (e.g. Zyrtec® or generic cetirizine, Allegra® or generic fexofenadine) one to two hours prior to going outdoors or taken daily during the pollen season may also help.
Antihistamines are popular allergy medications because they work to relieve symptoms relatively quickly — usually within an hour of taking them.
This class of medication is available over the counter (OTC) and in prescription strength. They may be taken orally or topically (oral antihistamines include Claratin and Zyrtec, but antihistamine eye drops and nasal sprays are also available).
The main downside to antihistamines are their side effects. Common antihistamine side effects may include drowsiness, dry mouth, digestive issues and confusion. Antihistamines also treat the symptoms of allergies without treating the root cause of allergy symptoms.
Steroid nasal sprays are also effective at treating the symptoms of seasonal allergies. These sprays target nasal symptoms, including congestion, sinus pressure, watery nose, itchy nose and sneezing.
To work effectively, steroid nasal sprays must be taken up to two weeks before the start of allergy season to work effectively. Side effects of steroid nasal sprays may include dry nose and throat, itchiness and unpleasant taste.
Salines sprays are available for nasal symptoms and saline drops are available for ocular symptoms. You don’t need a prescription to purchase saline solution, as this treatment is offered over the counter.
Treat your allergies at the source.
Allergy immunotherapy by way of injection (subcutaneous or SCIT) or under the tongue (sublingual or SLIT) can decrease your body’s response to your allergies.
As a result, you will likely experience fewer symptoms and may decrease your need for medications.
Subcutaneous immunotherapy (otherwise known as allergy shots) is considered an effective treatment to treat allergies at their root cause.
Both subcutaneous and sublingual therapy introduces small particles of allergens to the system so the immune system may develop an immunity to the allergens treated and stop seeing these nonharmful particles as a threat.
While allergy shots are effective, some patients should talk to their doctor before starting treatment; patients with a history of anaphylaxis may not be good candidates for allergy shots as such treatments may result in anaphylaxis.
Allergy sufferers may make an appointment with a doctor or allergist to receive such treatments and get tested for allergies.
Another method of allergy immunotherapy is sublingual immunotherapy — or allergy immunotherapy administered orally, underneath the tongue.
This type of immunotherapy may be as effective as allergy shots, though the chances of anaphylaxis may be somewhat slimmer.
Sublingual immunotherapy may be administered at home, daily. You may need to make a telehealth appointment for your first dose so your clinician can monitor you for anaphylaxis symptoms.