If you’re like millions of people, the welcoming warmth of spring is blunted by pollination, triggering sneezing and sniffles, stuffy sinuses, throat clearing, foggy brain, and other seasonal allergy symptoms! And if you’re into spring cleaning, you’re likely kicking up dust, possibly mold, pet dander and other environmental allergens that can add to your misery. Talking with your doctor about your allergies is the best course of action because they can help you address your allergy triggers, discuss medications like antihistamines, or suggest other forms of treatment like immunotherapy (allergy shots), for example. But here are a number of steps you can take to reduce the effects of allergens, as well as limit your exposure to them in your home:
Start by checking the pollen count in your area. Go to http://www.pollen.com/allergy-weather-forecast.asp to see the local and national allergy forecast, and plan to stay inside as much as possible during times when the pollen count is high.
Shut the windows. On days when the pollen count is high, keep the windows closed.
Shift your schedule. On windy days, consider staying inside between 10 AM and 4 PM, when pollen counts as well as mold counts tend to be at their highest for the day.
De-pollen yourself. If you’ve been out and about, consider changing your clothes or taking a shower when you arrive home—this can help you remove any pollen that may have fallen or blown onto you while you were outside.
Drive sneeze-free. Consider replacing your car’s cabin air filters to reduce the amount of dust and other allergens like car emissions or road tar fumes from invading your space. Or drive with air conditioning on, close the vents and turn the air knob to “re-circulating air.”
Dust often. One of the best ways to control indoor allergens is by getting rid of dust. Dust mites are the most common trigger of asthma and allergy symptoms inside the home. It’s best to use a damp cloth when dusting to avoid scattering too many allergen particles into the air. For an extra layer of protection, try wearing a mask while you dust—it can help prevent you from breathing in dust that is kicked up as you clean.
Vacuum frequently. Vacuuming in areas that accumulate dust, such as carpeting and around, under, and behind furniture, can help control allergens in your home. Consider choosing a vacuum with a HEPA (high–efficiency particulate absorber) filter to help trap dust mite particles, pet dander, pet hair and more.
Wash thoroughly. Dust mites tend to live in bedding, pillows and area rugs. Try to wash your bedding in hot water at least once a week and dry it in a hot dryer to kill the dust mites. To further reduce the effects of dust mites, purchase mite-proof covers for your mattress, pillows and box spring.
Keep Fido out. If you’re allergic to pet dander or pet hair, it might be a good idea to not let your furry friend sleep in your bed. To avoid breathing in pet allergens all night long, shut the bedroom door (and consider buying your pet a bed of their own, which can be kept in a room other than your bedroom). Also, vacuuming your home and washing your pet often are two good ways to reduce pet hair or pet dander around the house.
Rinse your sinuses. Using a saline nasal solution or nasal spray can help improve allergy symptoms.
If you have more questions about how to manage your allergies, make sure to talk to your primary care physician or your allergist.