Springtime brings not just deliciously longer days, warmer weather, balmy
breezes and blooming flowers. For people with allergies, it means the return of
pollen. Pollen and allergies don't mix.
There's not much you can do to avoid pollen altogether -- after all, it's
produced by grasses, trees, flowers and weeds -- but you can minimize the
misery. Here's your springtime pollen survival guide.
Larissa Stouffer of Melrose, Mass., usually sneezes not once, not twice, but
three times. She sneezes as she gets into a car if it's sunny outside, but not
when it's cloudy; her dad does the same thing. And as soon as she pops some
mint chewing gum into her mouth, out comes an achoo.
Stouffer, 30, isn't the only one with a fickle nose. Many people sneeze at
peculiar moments -- such as after exercise, plucking their eyebrows, in the
sunshine, or after sex.
Here are the reasons why they sneeze...
Be realistic. "Complete avoidance of pollen is impractical," says
Daniel Waggoner, MD, an allergist in Mystic, Conn., tells his patients. "In
Connecticut, spring brings tree pollens. Late spring and summer brings grass
pollens. Late summer and fall brings weed pollen."
"That in general holds true across the country," he says. However,
if you travel south, some types of pollen may linger year round, with the
But there's a lot you can do to minimize the fallout from pollen -- from
simple measures you can take around the house to seeing an allergist for
First, Know Your Pollen Count
Pollen is the invisible annoyance. The average pollen particle is smaller
than the width of an average human hair, according to the American Academy of
Allergy Asthma & Immunology.
But once pollen reaches your nose and throat, it can trigger an allergic
reaction if you are the sensitive type. And about 35 million Americans are
sensitive to pollen, according to National Institutes of Health estimates.
It's easy enough to check the pollen count in your locale through the
National Allergy Bureau, a section of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma
and Immunology, which maintains an online site for pollen counts.
Pollen counts calculate a given pollen in a specific amount of air during a
particular period, such as 24 hours, according to the Asthma and Allergy
Foundation of America.
Ask your allergist exactly what you are allergic to, and when that pollen
peaks, so you can be ready to take action before the pollen triggers bad
allergic reactions, says Russell B. Leftwich, MD, an allergist in Nashville,
Second, Stay Indoors When Pollen Counts Are High
When pollen counts are high, shut the windows and use the air conditioner,
"The biggest problem pollen-sensitive patients have are the times when
the pollen is heaviest and outside temperatures are the nicest," he says.
"People are tempted to sleep with the windows open."
Big mistake, he tells them. "Normally with the windows shut and the air
conditioner on there is very little pollen in your house."