Scott M. Schreiber, a chiropractor, knows what it’s like to deal with springtime allergies. His eyes get swollen and itchy. His nose runs and his throat feels sore. “On high pollen days, I can only be outside for a short period of time, which is upsetting when my kids want to play,” Schreiber says.
In many parts of the U.S. “springtime allergies” start as early as February and last until summer. Most people with allergies have year-round symptoms.
By Dr. Amy Wechsler
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Here’s what you can do right now to get some relief.
Limit your time outdoors. Each spring, trees release billions of tiny pollen grains into the air. When you breathe them into your nose and lungs, they can trigger an allergic reaction. Staying inside can help, especially on windy days and during the early morning hours, when pollen counts are highest.
When you do head outdoors, wear glasses or sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes. A filter mask can help when you mow the lawn or work in the garden. Different types are available, so ask your doctor to suggest one that will work best for you.
Once you head back inside, “Always take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothing,” says Andrew Kim, MD, an allergist and immunologist in Fairfax, VA. Otherwise, you’ll bring pollen into your house.
Take allergy medicine. It can help adults and children with sniffles and a runny nose, Kim says. Antihistamines, which block your body’s response to allergies, usually work in less than an hour. But read the package carefully. Some older drugs, like diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine, and clemastine, can make you drowsy.
For more severe allergies, Kim suggests a nasal spray. But don’t expect symptoms to vanish right away. “They may take a few days to work,” he says. Since they can have side effects like burning, dryness, or nosebleeds, use the lowest dose that controls your symptoms.
Your doctor may recommend allergy shots if other medicines can’t relieve your symptoms. They contain a tiny amount of the pollen and will help your body build up resistance to it. You’ll likely need to get one shot each month for 3 to 5 years.