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June 17, 2016

Your guide to surviving allergy season

Prevention Allergies

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Pollen in Spring Pixabay/

If your family is anything like the 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies each year, you’re surely sniffling and sneezing your way through spring and summer. As the temperature gets warmer, pollen in the air from trees, grasses and weeds incites seasonal allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever. The most effective option for preventing allergic reactions is to avoid, eliminate and decrease contact with pollen or your specific irritant — at all costs.

What’s needed for the battle against allergy season? We will walk you through preventive steps you can take to avoid allergy symptoms, short-term options for relief and long- term measures that can improve your relationship with one of the country’s most commonly overlooked ailments.

1. Personal Hygiene

At the height of pollen season, prevent exposure and remove allergens daily by washing out your nose with a nasal saline rinse. Be wary of touching or rubbing your nose and wash your hands often with soap and water. Make an effort to shower at night to prevent the collection of pollen on your skin and hair from making it into your bed.

2. Clean Regularly

Once a month experts suggest washing your curtains, throw pillows, rugs, bedding, and shower curtains with hot water. Hot water abates pollen from lingering in your home. Research indicates that 140-degree water kills 100 percent of dust mites, a trigger for chronic allergies. Dust with a wet cloth that traps particles more effectively than a feather duster and invest in allergen-proof bedding with tightly woven microfiber to ward off dust mites. Similarly, vacuum regularly to reduce your exposure to allergens. Use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filter to eliminate even the smallest of particles.

3. Control Your Home Environment

If you have pets, it is important to prevent the influx of pollen that they may bring into your home from outside. Keep pets out of the bedroom and wash their feet and bodies if they walk outdoors. If you keep a lawn, mow it regularly and keep the grass short so outdoor pets don’t pick up excessive pollen. Similarly, keep pollen- laden clothing out of the bedroom, and wash it right away. Exclusively use your home’s air conditioner and keep windows closed amid the high pollen season.

4. Limit Outdoor Exposure

Depending on the daily pollen count, oftentimes it may make sense to limit your time outdoors. Avoid exercising outside in the morning and when it is windy, and if there is a high pollen count, it’s better to exercise inside or hit the gym. For those extremely sensitive to pollen, the best time to be or exercise outdoors is just after rainfall when all the pollen is washed away. If you do need to go outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to cut down on pollen getting into your eyes.

Preventive measures can reduce your exposure to allergens immensely, but relief can also be found by using the following short-term and long-term treatment plans.

5. Short-Term Treatment

A variety of over-the-counter or prescription medicine can help relieve oppressive allergy symptoms. If you anticipate that you will need to take medication, it’s 
best to start early before your symptoms kick in. Several antihistamines and decongestants in the forms of pills and nasal sprays can significantly relieve the short-term symptoms of allergies — from sneezing and itching to stuffiness. Talk to your local pharmacist about the best option for you. Whether you prefer allergy medication or preventive measures, it is important to take your symptoms seriously — as they can potentially lead to painful sinus or ear infections.

6. Long-Term Treatment

Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment that can combat severe allergies through modifying the body’s immune response to allergies. The two common types of immunotherapy are allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Effective for allergies to pollen, pets, dust, stinging insects and asthma, allergy shots render a person progressively less sensitive to specific allergens.

Allergy shots have been found to reduce hay fever symptoms in 85 percent of people and may be a viable option for relieving your symptoms. Even more appealing, allergy symptoms are frequently linked to migraines, and shots have been suggested to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines by 50 percent.

SLIT is another immunotherapy option that is taken under the tongue. Safe, effective and deleting the necessity for injections, SLIT is an option for treating grass and ragweed allergies.

7. Understand Pollen

Understanding pollen is a large component of surviving allergy season. Review the pollen score where you live and be on the lookout for particularly pollen-heavy
days when you should limit going outside. Pollen counts are determined by weather conditions, including wind currents, humidity and rainfall, and tend to be highest in the morning and lowest in the afternoon. In the spring, the biggest culprits are tree pollen — which usually strikes in March and April — and grass pollen — which overlaps with tree pollen in late spring and continues into early summer.

Each year allergies wage a strong war. They are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, annually costing more that $18 billion. Yet, there is no need to wave your tissues in surrender this allergy season; educating yourself on the most effective ways to prevent and treat allergy symptoms can relieve your annual duress and point to a sniffle-free future for you and your family.

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