Spring is on its way, bringing us warmer weather, budding trees and colorful flowers pushing up out of the ground. Many of us welcome this time of year, but if you suffer from allergies, spring can also bring sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose and many other allergy symptoms.
Seasonal allergies, also referred to as hay fever and allergic rhinitis, can make you miserable. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, check out these tips to learn how to keep them under control and still enjoy the beauty and warmth of spring.
An allergy occurs when your body’s immune system sees a foreign substance as a harmful threat and overreacts to it, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Your immune system makes antibodies to protect you from the allergen, even though it isn’t harmful. Your immune system’s reaction can irritate your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system.
Pollen is a common allergen released by trees, grasses and other plants during the spring. Pollen is easily inhaled through little particles in the air.
Allergic reactions can vary from person to person. Some people may experience minor symptoms like a runny nose, while others may experience much more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
Since you can’t just hide under the covers and completely avoid allergy season, try to find ways to make yourself more comfortable.
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Chest tightness, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Tips to Control Your Allergies
Since you can’t just hide under the covers and completely avoid allergy season, try to find ways to make yourself more comfortable. Check out these tips to control your allergies this season:
- Avoid your triggers as much as possible. Once you determine what causes your symptoms to worsen, try to avoid them as much as you can. If mowing the lawn or weeding really impacts your allergies, it might be time to delegate those tasks to someone else. If you find exercising outdoors makes things worse, consider moving your activities indoors for the season.
- Plan your time outdoors. Use the weather to your advantage. For example, rain helps clear the pollen from the air. After a good rain, you might find you’re more comfortable outside. If it’s a windy, dry day, you might consider spending more time indoors and keep the windows closed. Pollen counts are often highest in the morning, so if you’re doing outdoor chores or activities, think about waiting to do them until later in the day.
- Wear a mask. A few years ago, this might have seemed like a strange idea. Nowadays, most of us have plenty of masks in our homes. Use a mask when you’re doing outdoor activities to minimize those symptoms that might trigger your allergies.
- Clean up after being outside. Allergens, like pollen, get onto your skin and your clothes, so try to change clothes when you go back inside. Wash your hands, or if possible, take a shower to rinse the pollen from your skin and hair.
- Check the pollen forecast. Just like you check the weather, check the pollen forecast and pollen levels for your area. Use this information to plan accordingly. Websites like the Weather Channel break down local pollen counts by pollen type and how significant the risk is for allergy symptoms.
- Keep the air inside your home clean. This article from Healthline offers several tips for keeping the air clean inside your home, including using high-efficiency HEPA filters in your air conditioning and heating systems and vacuuming and dusting regularly. Other tips include keeping the windows closed when necessary and using a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels at less than 50% for mildew and mold.
- Get ahead of your allergies. According to a U.S. Health and Human Services report, allergists say it’s important to begin allergy medications two or three weeks before symptoms are expected to appear to give your body a chance to build up medication levels. With climate changes and rising temperatures, allergy symptoms are occurring earlier in the year and lasting longer, so plan accordingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends.
- Get tested. Your health care provider may recommend allergy testing to find out what allergens are triggering your symptoms. Testing can help determine what treatments are likely to work best.
You can’t cure your allergies, but there are effective treatments for treating and controlling your symptoms. Here are some to consider:
- Over-the-counter medications — There are several over-the-counter medications that can treat common allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing and more. You can also find nasal sprays designed to clean out your nasal passages. Talk to your health care provider about which over-the-counter medicines may be right for you.
- Medications prescribed by your health care provider — You can talk to your health care provider about additional treatment options. For example, some people respond well to allergy shots, which expose them to more and more of an allergen to decrease their sensitivity to it.
- Lifestyle choices — Because allergies are an overreaction of the immune system, certain lifestyle choices can reduce inflammation and help to control your symptoms.
- An anti-inflammatory diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains is considered helpful, while foods high in trans-fats and refined carbohydrates can make inflammation worse. Learn more with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) handout Eating to Reduce Inflammation.
- Moderate, regular exercise can also help reduce inflammation, according to research done by the National Library of Medicine. Fast-paced walking and consistent movement throughout the day can help you maintain a healthy body weight and reduce your risk for many chronic diseases.
- Alternative treatments — Some experts suggest trying alternative ways to treat allergies. Examples of these treatments include various vitamins, supplements and herbs such as stinging nettle and butterbur as well as therapies such as acupuncture or massage. Check out VA’s Health Library for different tools to fight allergies.
- The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health offers more details about alternative ways to treat allergies, including side effects and risks.
- My HealtheVet has a feature called VA Allergies and Adverse Reactions where you can store all of your allergy data in one location, making it easier to share with your health care team.
- The CDC has more resources related to allergies, including information on the impact of climate change on pollen and your health, asthma and allergies, and much more.
Take control of your allergies. Don’t let them stop you from enjoying yourself this spring.