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.
Try these tips to enjoy outdoor living, gardening, and hiking despite your allergies.
Thick of It: Is the grass getting high? Wear a mask if you're mowing. Nothing fancy -- an inexpensive painter's mask works fine.
High and Dry:
Pollen counts are highest on hot, dry, windy days. Check the forecast before making plans.
Good Scents, Bad Sense:
Allergic to insect stings? Don't wear scented deodorants, perfumes, shampoos, or hair products. Carry an epi pen when hiking.
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 warmer temperatures.
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 treatment.
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 AllergyAsthma & 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, Tenn.