Every spring, Denise Wilson tweaks her daily routine. Instead of running outdoors, she hits the gym. She puts on the air conditioner rather than open a window for fresh air. And she tucks her contacts into a drawer and switches to eyeglasses.
Wilson, 46, a public relations exec in Brooklyn, NY, says these are absolute musts if she's going to get through allergy season.
Alternaria. Aspergillus. Cladosporium. Penicillium. Unless you have a special fondness for fungi, you’re probably not too familiar with these or any of the thousands of other common molds.
But if you’re among the estimated 5% of Americans who have mold allergies, you may be all too well acquainted with the itchy eyes, nasal congestion, coughing, wheezing, skin irritation, and other symptoms mold allergies can cause. Severe mold allergies can even trigger potentially dangerous asthma attacks.
"I usually don't let myself get to that point anymore," Wilson says. Instead of waiting for symptoms to blossom, she starts her allergy medicine before the season begins.
She's on to something. When you use meds early you may ease your symptoms all spring, says Bela B. Faltay, MD, chief of service of allergy at Akron General Health System, in Ohio. "With a week or 2 lead time, you'll feel better all season."
High season usually kicks into gear when the thermometer hits 60 degrees for 3-4 days. When that happens, pollen from plants starts moving through the air -- and your allergy misery begins. It depends on where you live, but that's typically early April. To get a head start, try taking medication in mid- to late March.
To get one the right one, it might take a bit of trial and error. A drug that works great for your neighbor may be a bust for you.
Decongestants work fast, but they can lead to a "rebound effect," which means your symptoms may get worse from using them too much. "They can be great in a pinch, once in a while," Faltay says. To stay safe, stop using them after 3 days.