When nasal allergy symptoms bother you only in the spring, late summer, or fall, it's likely you are allergic to pollens. When you suffer depends largely on where you live and, to some extent, on the local weather.
Because pollen is nearly everywhere on the planet — except the polar ice caps and at extremely high elevations, it makes it almost impossible to escape. You can, however, limit your exposure by following these tips.
Stay Indoors During Peak Pollen Times
Pollen counts are highest on warm, dry, breezy days. The best times to be outdoors are very early morning (when dew is on the plants), evening, during and after rain, or on cloudy, humid, or windless days. Schedule your outdoor activities, including exercise, during these times.
Keep Your House Clean
Household dust contains pollens. So, to reduce symptoms, minimize the dust in your indoor environment. Chemical irritants, such as fumes from a wood-burning stove or fireplace, pollution, or cigarette, pipe, and cigar smoke, can also worsen allergy symptoms.
Use the Air Conditioner
Keep windows and doors closed. Avoid the urge to air out the house by opening the windows. Use an air conditioner to keep the temperature cool and filter out pollens. You can buy a special high-efficiency particulate accumulator filter called a HEPA filter that will remove most of the pollen from the air.
When driving, use the air conditioner on the recirculate setting. Have the car's air conditioner serviced regularly to remove mold and dust from the system.
Rinse Your Nose
After you're exposed to pollens, use a salt-water rinse or nasal spray to cleanse your nose. This can be very soothing as well. These are available over the counter.
Protect Your Eyes
if you have to be outdoors during pollen season, wear goggles or wraparound glasses. . If you're highly sensitive, a pollen-filtering nasal mask, available at most pharmacies, can help.
Additionally, don't wear your contact lenses when the pollen count is high. Tiny pollen particles can get under the lenses and irritate your eyes.
After being outdoors during high-pollen periods, remove and wash clothing and take a shower. Shower and wash your hair every night to avoid bringing pollens into your bed. Wash your hands frequently. Be sure to dry clothes in a clothes dryer. Line-fresh clothing may smell good, but it can be full of pollens that stick to wet or damp clothes. Use the clothes dryer instead.
Avoid Activities That Stir Up Pollen
Mowing the lawn, raking, or other types of yard work stir up large amounts of pollen. Hire someone to take care of the yard. Have the grass cut 2 inches or shorter so it can't pollinate. If you can't afford help, wear a pollen-filtering mask while you work.
Choose Landscaping Carefully
What you plant in your own yard can make a big difference in your allergy symptoms. Large lawns may be popular, but they can cause plenty of suffering if you're allergic to grass pollens. Opt instead for larger flower beds with allergen-free plants for your yard.The following plants have large and heavy pollen, which makes them less likely to become sources of airborne allergens.
- fruited mulberry
Take an Allergy-free Vacation
Plan trips to areas with fewer allergens. For instance, the beach and areas higher than 5,000 feet sometimes have less airborne pollen than other locations.
Know Your Pollen Season
Plants produce pollen at about the same time every year. When pollination starts — and when the misery begins for you since you are allergic to pollens — depends on where you live. Knowing which pollens are allergens for you and when your peak pollen season occurs can help you avoid or limit your exposure to your allergens and reduce your allergy symptoms.
The pollen season can last from January through October. Generally, the further north you live, the later in the spring it starts. In southern states, the pollen season can begin as early as January.
Trees pollinate first, usually in late January or February through May. Grasses pollinate next, beginning in May and continuing through mid-July. Weeds begin to pollinate in the late summer and continue through fall.
See the next page for more information about allergies and allergy relief.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Written by Karen Serrano, MD Emergency Medicine resident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Reviewed by Lisa V. Suffian, MD Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, Saint Louis University Board certified in Allergy and Immunology Last updated June 2008