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Allergies Health Center

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Plagued by Pollen

Preventive tips, treatments, and more: Your survival guide for the spring allergy season.

The Hay Fever/Sinusitis Connection

Seasonal nasal allergies, such as hay fever (or rhinitis, its medical term) and sinusitis, often go hand in hand. Why? Hay fever can cause swelling of the opening to the sinuses. If the sinuses inside the skull don't drain adequately, an infection can develop that leads to worse symptoms.

People with hay fever are more likely to develop sinusitis than those without hay fever. Of course, not everyone with hay fever gets sinusitis. But "definitely, the data suggest that people who have allergies and sinus disease have worse sinus problems," says Michael Schatz, MD, MA, chief of Kaiser Permanente's allergy department in San Diego.

That's one more reason to seek treatment if you have an allergy, says Williams. Anything you do to cut down on congestion-such as treating your hay fever as early as possible should help your head feel clearer and might help you avoid sinusitis.

Home in on Solutions

Hands down, your No. 1 defense is to avoid the allergens that make you so miserable. You can't get rid of pollen outside, but you can tweak your daily routine to limit it indoors. Some tips:

  • Shut it. Close the windows at home and in your car.
  • Air it. If you need to cool down, run the air conditioning instead of opening the windows. Also, put the air on "recirculate" so you're not bringing in outside air filled with pollen.
  • Case it. Put pillows, box springs, and mattresses in cases that keep dust mites out.
  • Wash it. Throw sheets, comforters, blankets, curtains, and washable stuffed animals regularly into the washing machine, set to the hottest water temperature the material can handle.
  • Dry it. Use the clothes dryer. Dust mites can't take the heat.
  • Clean it. Keep kitchens and bathrooms clean and dry. If you use a humidifier, clean it regularly so it doesn't become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.
  • Freeze it. If your kids have dust mite allergies and their toys can't be washed, put the toys in the freezer for 48 hours every two weeks. Freezing temperatures will kill the dust mites, Duke University's Williams says.
  • Expose it. To further reduce dust mites, consider replacing your carpeting with hard flooring and getting rid of upholstered furniture.
  • Ask about it. Ask your doctor if your allergies are linked to your pet, and what to do about it.
  • Store it. In the basement or attic, put away collectibles and clothes in plastic storage bags and run a dehumidifier to prevent mold growth.

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