The season’s buds and blooms are a sure sign that winter is over -- and for many people, that means seasonal allergies are on their way.
Medicine may help keep your sniffles in check, but you can cut your need for these drugs if you learn what your allergy triggers are and how to avoid them.
What Causes Allergies?
Pollen: This is the fine greenish-yellow dust that coats your car. It helps trees, grasses, and flowers grow. Pretty much from spring to fall, something is giving off pollen. Trees are usually to blame in the spring. Grasses get you in the summer and ragweed in the fall.
Mold: Outdoor spores float in the air just like pollen does. Some colonies peak in dry windy weather while others flourish in dampness and high humidity. Mold often becomes dormant during the winter in cold climates.
Avoid Outdoor Triggers
If you have severe pollen and mold allergies, you’re probably tempted to stay inside with the windows closed from April through November. Clearly, that won't do. Besides, some of what is floating around outside makes it inside your home, anyway.
So what can you do to feel better and enjoy the outdoors?
- Track the pollen count. Several online sites provide up-to-date, local information. Avoid going outdoors when the pollen count is very high.
- Hot, dry, windy days are peak allergy times. Plan your trips for when it’s cooler and less windy. After a rain is a good time to go outside.
- Pollen counts are highest in the morning, so schedule outdoor events later in the day.
- Get an allergy-free family member or friend to mow the lawn. If you have to do it yourself, use a mask and protective glasses. You can choose a simple disposable paper mask, or for tougher allergies, a ''respirator mask'' with a HEPA filter. Ask your doctor which is right for you.
- Toss your clothes in the washer and take a shower after you come in, especially when you’ve been working in the yard.
Fight Indoor Allergens
There are plenty of things inside your home that can kick off an allergic reaction. Pets, kids, and even your shoes can bring pollen inside. And carpet and drapes can trap it.
Take these steps:
- Keep your windows closed and run the air conditioning.
- Use a vacuum with double-bagging, or a HEPA filter. If cleaning stirs up your allergies, wear an allergy mask like the kind you might use outside.
- Don't hang sheets and clothes on the line to dry in the fresh spring air. You’ll only bring all those allergens inside with you.
- Cut back on the carpeting and drapes. Consider tile and hardwood, and roll up your shades.
- Take off your shoes right outside the door, before you come inside. If you can’t leave them there, at least wipe them well on an outdoor mat.
You can't avoid allergens altogether. But by taking a few steps, you may be able to welcome spring with a smile.