Ah, fall. The perfect time to get outside for long walks in the neighborhood, hikes in the hills, and autumn gardening.
But that "ah" can quickly become "ah-choo" if you're one of the 36 million Americans with seasonal allergy problems. The runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion -- all typical fall allergy symptoms -- can slow you down and make you miserable.
While there have been no dramatic advances recently in allergy treatment, experts say if you are allergy-prone, you can take a number of...
Clean air filters frequently and air ducts at least once a year.
Keep humidity in your house below 50% to prevent mold growth.
Install dehumidifiers in basements and other damp areas. Avoid moldy areas: basements, garages, crawl spaces, barns, compost heaps.
Keep pets outside. If you must keep pets indoors, do not allow them in bedrooms; bathe them often.
Use plastic covers for pillows, mattresses, and box springs. Get rid of overstuffed furniture or down-filled bedding/pillows.
Wash bedding in hot water every week.
Wear a mask and gloves when cleaning to limit chemical exposure.
Install hardwood floors instead of carpeting. Limit number of throw rugs.
Avoid dust-collecting window blinds and long drapes. Use window shades instead.
Vacuum twice a week.
Wash bathroom surfaces and shower curtain with diluted bleach.
Check the forecast. Stay indoors on hot, dry, windy days when pollen count is high. If mold is a problem, stay inside during rainy or windy days.
Check the time. Between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., pollen counts are highest.
Avoid being around freshly cut grass whenever possible.
Avoid yard work! Mowing stirs up grass pollen. Flowers are loaded with pollen; so are many trees. Raking leaves stirs up mold spores. Let someone else to do your yard work, so you can avoid these pesky allergens.
Wear a mask. If you must work in the yard, an inexpensive painter's mask will protect you from grass and flower pollen as well as mold.
Take a shower. After being outdoors, get rid of allergens that may have collected in your clothes and hair. Take a shower, wash your hair, and change clothes.
Use the clothes drier. Don't hang clothes and linens outside to dry. Pollen and molds can easily attach to them.
Vacuum your car. Lots of animal dander is shed from your clothes onto your car's interior.
Keep car windows closed, and close vents. Use air conditioning.
SOURCES: WebMD Medical Reference: "Conquer Allergies." WebMD Medical Reference with The Cleveland Clinic: "Allergy Triggers." WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Allergy-Proof Your Environment." WebMD Medical News: "Bleach Cuts Allergy Triggers in Mold." WebMD Tool: "Allergy Triggers." WebMD Medical News: "Allergy Triggers Lurk in Cars."