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Allergies Health Center

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Fall Allergies and Sinusitis

Autumn has arrived, and you can’t stop sneezing and sniffling. You may be suffering from allergic rhinitis or hay fever.

Ragweed: The Prime Cause of Fall Allergies continued...

But experts say there are effective ways to curb symptoms of hay fever, including avoidance strategies and -- if that’s not enough -- medical therapy. Here are six proven strategies:

1. Make Your Home a Pollen-Free Haven

As much as possible during ragweed season, keep your windows shut and the air conditioner on (and do the same while in your car). “Running the air conditioner will also help remove moisture from the air, which helps prevent the growth of mold,” says James Stankiewicz, MD, chairman of the department of otolaryngology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Mold can aggravate hay fever symptoms.”

HEPA air filters can be helpful, especially if your home is carpeted. One per room is best, says Christine Franzese, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. If that’s not in the cards, get one for the room where you spend most of your time -- presumably your bedroom. You might also consider getting a HEPA vacuum cleaner -- otherwise, vacuuming might just stir up pollen rather than remove it.

2. Wear a Mask

A surgical-style facemask isn’t going to be 100% effective at protecting you from pollen -- “you’d need a full-body hazmat suit to do that,” says Franzese. But a mask can cut your exposure substantially, and is worth donning when you venture outside to garden, mow the lawn, exercise, and so on.

Look for a facemask with an “N95” rating from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). You should be able to pick one up at a drugstore or home supply store.

“I know it’s no fun to wear a mask, but it really will help you from breathing in all that pollen and mold,” says Kao. “The key is to use it properly. It should fit tightly around the mouth and nose -- feel around it to make sure no air is coming in around the edges.”

3. Wash Up

Whenever you come in from outside, wash your face and hands. If you’ve been exposed to outdoor air for quite a while, shower and change into fresh clothes.

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