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Your Pollen Survival Guide

Pollen and allergies don't mix.

Third, Plan Outdoor Time Wisely

It's best to avoid the outdoors during high pollen counts, but that's not always practical.

"Most plants pollinate from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., says Miguel P. Wolbert, MD, an allergist in Evansville, Ind. Wolbert is certified in pollen counting for the National Allergy Bureau. "If you are outside then, going for a jog, you pick up the pollen on your hair, face, and clothes," he says.

Windy days can be worse than calm days. "Windy days stir the pollen around," he says.

If a dog is jogging with you, he's a pollen-carrier, too, Wolbert says. "Often people blame the dog for an allergy, and it might be the pollen on the pet."  

When possible, avoid early morning outings with the dog on high pollen days, especially if it's windy.

Fourth, Protect Yourself From Pollen When You Go Outdoors

"When people do have to be outside at a high pollen time, wearing a mask is a good filter," says Leftwich. He suggests getting a painter's mask at your local hardware store or home improvement center.

"If you have bad pollen allergies and you are the one who has to do the yard work, wearing a mask is a good idea," he says. They don't look fashionable, he admits, but reminds his patients: "It's not a social occasion."

When you're outside, minimize your exposure to pollutants and other allergens as well, suggests Wolbert. If you go jogging later in the day when pollen tends to die down, pick a residential street instead of a thoroughfare to avoid car exhaust.

Also, adds Leftwich: "Take your allergy medicines before you go outside. People wait until they are miserable and then take it. For some reason they think [an allergy attack] is not going to happen this time."

Fifth, Keep Pollen From Following You Into the House

As soon as you arrive home -- even if you've just been in the backyard -- change your clothes and take a shower to rid your body of as much pollen as possible, Leftwich says.

Don't forget your hair, especially if it is long, Leftwich says. "Just rinsing your hair would do."

Sixth, Treat Your Pollen Allergies

A variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications can help your allergy symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, and coughing.

Get an evaluation from an allergist to help find the best allergy remedy for you, Wolbert says. The doctor may recommend an antihistamine, other allergy pills, inhaled allergy treatments, or even allergy shots.

Beware of overusing decongestant nasal sprays. Using decongestant sprays for more than three days in a row, he says, can lead to a "rebound" effect. Your allergy symptoms may become worse than before you started the medicine.

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