If you’re sniffling, sneezing and rubbing your eyes while everyone else is celebrating what a beautiful day it is, you may be suffering from pollen allergy.
Commonly known as hay fever, pollen allergy affects about 1 in 10 Americans, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). It’s caused when pollen grains from trees, grasses and weeds float through the air in spring, summer or fall and end up in our noses, ears, eyes and mouths. Ragweed, the most common perpetrator, can release up to a million grains of pollen a day from a single plant. For most people, this isn’t bothersome and the body flushes those substances away naturally, but for those allergic to pollen, it can cause misery.
Relief from pollen allergy symptoms can be achieved by several methods. First, if you are experiencing symptoms for the first time, see your doctor to confirm a diagnosis. In addition to over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines your doctor may recommend, try the following strategies I have found to minimize suffering when pollen counts are high:
- Be alert for high pollen count days, which can vary by season, location, time of day and weather. Dry, windy days tend to cause the most trouble with pollen allergies. Some sufferers claim pollen counts are highest at 5 AM and 5 PM. Local newspapers often report the pollen count, or go to www.weather.com and enter your zip code or city and state to learn pollen counts.
- Stay indoors as much as possible on high pollen count days.
- When you do go out, avoid other allergy triggers: exhaust fumes and other air pollution, perfumes, animal dander, high stress situations, spicy food, smoke.
- Some experts believe icy drinks aggravate allergy symptoms, and that drinking a cup of hot tea before getting out of bed can help relieve fluctuations in body temperature that throw off the body’s natural defenses during high pollen counts.
- When you return home from being outside, change clothes and wash the ones you were wearing. Take off shoes before entering the house. Shoes and clothes bring in lots of pollen.
- Pets can carry a high amount of pollen. At the very least, keep your pets out of the bedroom, and use a permanent, washable HEPA air filter on your furnace.
- Keep windows shut. Use air conditioning if possible.
- Damp wipe nonporous surfaces to capture pollen that has entered the house.
- A central vacuum system can most effectively remove pollen from carpets and drapes and transport it to a source away from living spaces, such as a garage, attic, closet or basement. Traditional vacuum cleaners tend to re-circulate allergens back into the air and can actually aggravate symptoms.