If you have been suffering from especially severe allergy symptoms this year, you are not alone. Each time spring rolls around, it seems like more and more people suffer from allergies with ever-worsening symptoms. In a 2018 interview with Molekule, Dr. Purvi Parikh, a pediatric and adult allergist and immunologist who practices in Manhattan, gives two reasons for this phenomenon:
- Allergy seasons are growing longer and more severe due to the effects of climate change. Rising carbon dioxide levels are causing plants to produce more potent pollen during extended growing seasons.
- We may be experiencing the effects of the “hygiene hypothesis,” a theory that modern standards of cleanliness keep people from being exposed to beneficial bacteria that can prevent the development of allergies and asthma.
If you experience seasonal allergy symptoms, you are probably wondering what you can do to breathe more easily this allergy season. We consulted with practicing allergy physicians to get their insights on the following tips for finding relief from exposure to airborne allergens.
Preparing for allergy season
Everyone copes with allergy season differently. Some people prepare for the pollen-filled spring and summer months by comparing different treatment methods and researching allergy medicine side effects, while others focus on figuring out which home remedies can help relieve allergy symptoms. If the abundance of allergy information available online has your head spinning, a trusted physician can be your best resource to determine how to deal with your specific allergy triggers and symptoms.
Dr. Parikh recommends visiting a board-certified allergist to create a personalized treatment plan. To find an allergist in your area, you can ask a trusted friend, family member or healthcare professional for a recommendation. If you are searching for an allergist online, you can try the allergist-finding tool on the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) website.
8 Ways to avoid indoor allergy symptoms this allergy season
Do you know where you come into contact with your allergy triggers? While the media often focuses on outdoor pollen levels during allergy season, many people encounter allergens—such as dust mites, pet dander, mold and even pollen—every day in their own houses. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the allergens in your home. Here are eight helpful tips from real allergists to help make your house an allergy-free zone.
- Check on the firewood in your fireplace. Is your fireplace causing your allergy symptoms? Dr. Summit Shah, an allergist practicing in Columbus, Ohio who specializes in allergies, hay fever and asthma, recommends checking your fireplace to make sure that mold is not growing on any leftover firewood. New wood that you bring into the house should also be inspected for mold growth.
- Change air filters regularly. Another good reminder by Dr. Shah (and also frequently recommended by Molekule) is to change HVAC filters regularly. Forgetting this simple step can allow allergens to build up on your filter and ultimately be reintroduced into the air when you turn on your air conditioning or heat. A new, clean filter will help trap allergens and keep them out of the air in your home. If you use a portable air purifier, timely filter replacement will also be important to receive the full benefit of the device.
- Use a saltwater rinse. Dr. Alan Khadavi, an allergist from Beverly Hills, recommends using a saltwater rinse to help combat sinus headaches caused by seasonal allergies. A saline flush or other saltwater rinse for the inside of your nose can help remove mucus and get rid of headache-causing congestion and breathe more easily.
- Deep clean your furniture. Though your couch or armchair may look perfectly clean, it could be harboring the source of your allergy symptoms. Upholstered furniture can be a gathering place for allergens in your home such as dust mites, pet dander and pollen. Dr. Joseph Pflanzer, a board-certified allergist that practices in De Soto, Texas, suggests having your furniture cleaned regularly to help remove accumulated allergens from the fabric.
- Change clothes and wash your face after going outside. Jofy Kuriakose, a nurse practitioner with Texan Allergy and Sinus Center, points out that pollen can stick to your clothes, shoes, hair and skin. By removing your shoes, changing your clothes and washing your hands and face when you get inside, you can cut down on your allergen exposure and avoid tracking pollen through your house.
- Switch to a HEPA vacuum cleaner. You may not be able to prevent allergens from settling in the carpet and rugs in your home, but you do not have to let them stay there. Kuriakose recommends using a sealed vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove allergens such as dust mites and pet dander from your floors and avoid introducing them back into the air.
- Use dust mite covers on your mattress and pillows. Allergens in your bedroom, especially those that accumulate in your mattress and pillows, can cause you to wake up with allergy symptoms that you may not have had the night before. To avoid this, Dr. Parikh recommends using dust mite covers on your mattress and pillows to create a barrier that protects you from breathing in allergens from your bedding. Because keeping your bedroom allergen-free while you sleep is most important, air purifiers can also help in this effort.
- Keep your windows closed. It can feel refreshing to open windows and let a nice breeze flow through your home, but doing so can let in more than just cool air. Dr. Parikh suggests keeping your windows closed, especially in the early mornings when pollen counts are at their highest, to keep airborne allergens from entering your home.
How allergists cope with outdoor seasonal allergy issues
Even if you spend the majority of your time indoors, you can still be affected by allergens in the outside air. If you or your family members experience seasonal allergy symptoms, consider the following tips from practicing allergists.
- Track daily pollen counts. Dr. James Haden, a Fort Worth allergist, recommends checking daily pollen counts before planning outdoor activities. Consider downloading a pollen-tracking app such as Zyrtec AllergyCast, WebMD Allergy, Weather Bug or Pollen.com’s Allergy Alert to stay up-to-date on the air quality in your area. Most apps even have a setting to alert you when pollen counts are especially high.
- Change the air filter in your car. The cabin air filter in your car should prevent pollen and other airborne pollutants from entering your car through your air vents, but an old filter may be too clogged to perform effectively. Dr. Pflanzer suggests changing your car’s air filter every 15,000 miles to help keep your car free from airborne allergens.
- Wear sunglasses when outdoors. Eye allergy symptoms can range from unpleasant and annoying to downright painful. Fortunately, wearing sunglasses when you go outside may help protect your eyes from pollen exposure and cut down on eye allergy symptoms, according to Dr. Bill McCann, an allergist with Allergy Partners of Western North Carolina.
Dealing with seasonal allergy symptoms year after year can be exhausting, but you do not have to resign yourself to a lifetime of runny noses, itchy eyes and sore throats. By following the above allergist-approved tips and talking to an allergist in your area—you can figure out the best way to minimize your allergy symptoms and enjoy the warm, sunny spring and summer months.