If you’re really feeling it this allergy season, well, gesundheit. From sneezing to congestion to itchy eyeballs to a relentless runny nose, there are plenty of signs that allergy season is upon us and you’re unfortunately one of its victims.
There are a host of factors that affect the strength allergy season — not just from year to year, but from day to day, said Luz Fonacier, an allergist and immunologist and president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Among these factors are climate change, rainfall and even wind.
“Since so many factors contribute to high pollen counts, it’s all but impossible to predict how intense an allergy season will be,” Fonacier told HuffPost. “In addition to taking steps to limit your exposure to allergens that affect you, seeing an allergist before the season starts can also help ensure you find relief.”
For many, the last few weeks have been miserable. Before reaching for over-the-counter allergy relief, it’s important to get a diagnosis, Fonacier said. “An allergist has advanced training and experience to properly diagnose your condition, identify your triggers and prescribe an allergy treatment and management plan to help you feel better and live better.”
Once you learn more about your allergies and how to avoid your specific triggers, you may still be interested in abating your symptoms with medications and other therapies. You’ll want to get these allergy aids sooner rather than later; the doctor advises against waiting until your symptoms are “unbearable” to start treatment.
So on your next trip to the pharmacy, be ready. The following tips and items may help mitigate the many annoyances that come with seasonal allergies, so they might be worth a try.
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These specific sprays — the kind that are designed to go straight up your nostril — “are generally more effective than other types of allergy medicine for the initial treatment of seasonal allergies,” Fonacier said. They can help decrease inflammation in the nasal passages and also decrease congestion. If your nose feels especially stuffy, this might be a helpful remedy for you.
Intranasal corticosteroids tend to be the most effective treatment if you suffer from persistent allergy symptoms, especially if they are interfering with your quality of life, Fonacier said. There are plenty of popular brands you can buy over the counter at your local pharmacy.
If you’ve used eye drops to treat itchy, allergy-responsive eyes and found them to at least temporarily relieve your discomfort, keep the product in your anti-allergy arsenal. Visine’s allergy eye drops appear to be a crowd favorite, with more than 4,000 5-star reviews on Amazon. (Just a heads up: Many say that you will experience some tingling or burning at first, but they deliver results.)
A Nasal Flush
Some experts may suggest a saline solution to flush out your nasal passages. These products are sometimes called neti pots and are typically available to purchase over the counter.
While research indicates these can be effective — A 2012 review of 10 studies showed that saline nasal irrigation had beneficial effects for people with allergic rhinitis, aka hay fever — it’s important you’re using the device correctly.
According to the FDA, this kind of nasal flush is generally regarded as safe, so long as you use the devices properly and according to instructions. The FDA has thorough guidelines on how to use these tools effectively here.
You can use oral antihistamines in combination with intranasal sprays to reduce your symptoms, Fonacier said, recommending the low or non-sedating type instead of the kinds that make you sleepy, like Benadryl. If you’re looking for non-drowsy types, you could try brands like Allegra, Zyrtec, Xyzal, Claritin, Alavert or Clarinex, she added.
Immunotherapy — aka allergy shots — have been shown to decrease certain allergy symptoms and prevent the development of new allergies, Fonacier said.
“The effectiveness of allergy shots appears to be related to the length of the treatment program as well as the dose of the allergen. Some people experience lasting relief from allergy symptoms, while others may relapse after discontinuing allergy shots.”
You’ll want to talk with your allergist to find out if an allergy shot could be right for you.
Cooling Your Face With Some Eye Stones
Sometimes allergy relief looks like self-care. If your eyes are puffy from intolerable itchiness, maybe you’d benefit from a pair of eye stones, which you first refrigerate and then place gently on your eyes.
If anything, the cooling sensation will feel good and, maybe even better, the stones will force you to rest in one place and just relax after a frustrating day of allergies.
While OTC treatments are widely available and effective at reducing symptoms, some people who suffer from allergies may benefit from a prescription leukotriene receptor antagonist, which has been approved for allergic rhinitis as a “second-line treatment,” Fonacier said. Of course, you’ll have to discuss this option with your allergist.
Staying Inside At Peak Points Of The Day
This treatment method may be easier this year than in years past; staying indoors with the windows and doors closed can help prevent worsening allergy symptoms, Fonacier said. Midday and afternoon hours are typically when pollen counts are highest, so keep this in mind as you consider your days and when you plan to leave the house.
This goes for the car, too — even though a fresh breeze can feel invigorating, you’ll want to go for air conditioning and keep the windows closed to limit the amount of pollen that you come into contact with.
Investing In A Quality Vacuum
It isn’t fair that you have to suffer from allergies and clean more often to feel better, but such is life. Pollen and other allergens can get trapped in your rugs and carpets and continue to haunt you, so get to the root of the issue by sucking these allergens out of your house.
One Hoover model is especially good for combating pet hair. A Dyson is also adept at capturing pet hair, allergens and truly anything else on your floors (it’s pricey, but once you use it you’ll understand why). Or you can go with an iRobot, which is strong on dust and ― best of all ― hands-free.
You may want to ask a family member or roommate to empty the vacuum for you (outdoors, preferably) so you don’t have to suffer from all of the allergens you’ve finally captured.
Taking a shower, washing your hair and changing your clothes after spending time outdoors can also help relieve some of your allergy symptoms. These routines will limit how much time you’ll spend with pollen on your body. Be sure to wash your outdoor clothes before re-wearing them.
Wearing A Mask
Fonacier said wearing a mask, such as a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask, can help limit your dreadful allergy symptoms when you’re outdoors, whether you’re doing chores like mowing the lawn or just getting some sun. Consider this an added bonus of masks, since we know that wearing one can also help limit the spread of COVID-19.
If needles don’t make you squeamish, you might want to give this ancient practice a go. A 2015 review of more than a dozen studies found that acupuncture showed beneficial results for both people with seasonal and year-long allergies.
Getting A Plant
Add some green to your home and you’ll arm it against allergens, too, so long as you’re investing in the right kind of plant. While houseplants can’t do the work of air purifiers, some have been shown to help remove harmful compounds from your indoor air, which could help dull your symptoms. A great plant to consider is a spider plant, which is extremely low maintenance (read: easy to keep alive). Some other plants to consider include an areca palm, a peace lily or an English ivy.
A final note on allergies: This year, it’s especially important to know about the symptoms that are not associated with seasonal allergies and asthma, Fonacier said. Symptoms including fever, loss of smell or taste, chills, nausea and vomiting are not signs of allergies and may be a result of the common cold or COVID-19.
Fonacier said it’s important to consider the context — if, during previous allergy seasons, you’ve experienced a symptom like coughing, you can make an informed decision about the way you feel. If you have any doubts about the cause of your symptoms, reach out to your health care provider and schedule a COVID-19 test.