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Tips for Your Allergy Action Plan

Allergies can ruin a beautiful day. But the symptoms are manageable when you plan ahead for pollen and other allergens.

Make these six tips part of your allergy action plan.

1. Know Your Triggers

Most people blame pollen for their allergies, but dust mites, pet dander, and mold also trigger many allergies. To avoid your triggers, you need to know what they are. Get an allergy skin test, a sure way to help you know what's causing your allergies.

2. Check the Pollen Count

Pollen counts are highest on hot, dry, windy days. Check the forecast before making plans. Pollen is released by plants between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., but travels best on mid-day breezes. Plan outdoor activities for early morning or at sunset. Remember, ragweed releases its pollen in the fall, so pollen counts may be high into September or even mid-October, or even later if the weather stays warm.

3. Allergy-Proof Your Home

Keep windows and doors closed when pollen levels are high. Use an air conditioner to circulate and cool indoor air. And be sure to change the filter every couple of months. Consider replacing carpet with hardwood or vinyl floors.

4. Clean House

Pollen, pet dander, and dust settle throughout your house. Vacuum twice a week -- floors, couches, upholstered chairs -- to remove these allergens. Use a microfiber cloth to dust bookshelves, blinds, and other surfaces that collect dust. Don't hang clothes out to dry -- they'll bring in pollen. Use the dryer instead. 

5. Rinse Your Hair and Clothes

Pollen collects on your clothes and hair. After an outing on high-pollen days, wash your clothes and rinse your hair. If you like to jog or ride a bike, choose allergy-friendly workout clothes. Polyester fabrics attract and hold less pollen than clothes made of cotton or wool.

6. Treat Allergy Symptoms With Medicine

The sooner you take allergy medicine, the better it will work to reduce symptoms.

Antihistamines keep your body from releasing histamine. Histamine is what leads to stuffy noses and itchy, watery eyes from allergies. Antihistamines are most effective when taken without stopping during allergy season.

Decongestants shrink blood vessels in your nose, which helps end or end congestion. They are best for short-term use. Using decongestant nose sprays for more than three to five days can aggravate allergy symptoms.

Steroid nose sprays make you have less swelling and mucus. The spray helps block things you breathe from irritating the inside of your nose. Nasal steroids can also treat polyps that often cause obstruction and lead to congestion and sinus infections.

Allergy eyedrops usually contain drugs that ease irritation, decongestants, or antihistamines. Depending on the active drug in the eyedrops, they work by decreasing inflammation or stopping histamine release. The result: a decrease in itchiness, tearing, or swelling.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on June 25, 2012

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