by Valerie Demetros
Spring means blooming flowers and a fresh airing of your home — unless you have seasonal allergies. In that case, it also means sneezing, congestion, a runny nose and more.
Allergy symptoms occur when your immune system interprets a fairly benign substance as a threat. The symptoms and how to treat them vary depending on your genes, what you are allergic to and your exposure.
A study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) found that tree pollen is the most common spring allergen.
Even if you don’t live near a forest, tree pollen grains are tiny and the wind can carry them for several miles. Many different types of trees release pollen linked to spring allergies including aspen, olive, pecan, ash, oak and more.
The best way to prevent seasonal allergies is to avoid exposure to common triggers. Stay indoors on windy, dry days. Avoid mowing the lawn or gardening during the season and wear a mask when you do.
If you are outside hiking or working in the yard, remove your clothes when you come inside and shower. Also, if you like hanging your clothes outside, give it a rest during allergy season; pollen can hang onto your clothes and sheets.
Inside your home, remove as much as possible by using a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom and cleaning the floors with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. Clean the air filter in your home frequently.
If you are plagued by seasonal allergies, you might want to consider oral antihistamines like Claritin and Zyrtec Allergy. These help relieve sneezing, itching, stuffy or runny nose and watery eyes.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays like Flonase and Nasacort are good nasal spray options but must be taken regularly to be effective. They need to be taken consecutively for seven days to start working; start up a week or two before your symptoms traditionally hit.
For temporary relief from nasal stuffiness, oral decongestants like Sudafed can help. Some medications combine an antihistamine with a decongestant.
Rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution is a quick and effective way to relieve nasal congestion. Rinsing directly flushes out mucus and allergens.
Find a neti pot at your local pharmacy, and saline solutions can be purchased ready-made or as kits to add to water.
There are a number of natural remedies for hay fever symptoms. For example, studies of acupuncture have shown possible benefits, and although the results have been mixed, many people swear by it every year.
If your seasonal allergies are much worse than over-the-counter treatments can handle, your health care provider may request skin or blood tests to determine which allergens are affecting you.
Specialized treatment can then be implemented including regular injections containing tiny amounts of the substances that cause your allergies to reduce the immune system’s reactions.