How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

This article was co-authored by Alan O. Khadavi, MD, FACAAI. Dr. Alan O. Khadavi is a Board Certified Allergist and a Pediatric Allergy Specialist based in Los Angeles, California. He holds a BS in biochemistry from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook and an MD from the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn. Dr. Khadavi completed his pediatric residency at Schneider Children’s Hospital in New York, and then went on to complete his allergy and immunology fellowship and pediatric residency at Long Island College Hospital. He is board certified in adult and pediatric allergy/immunology. Dr. Khadavi is a Diplomate of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, a Fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), and a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). Dr. Khadavi’s honors include Castle Connolly’s list of Top Doctors 2013-2020, and Patient Choice Awards “Most Compassionate Doctor” in 2013 & 2014.

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Seasonal allergies don’t have to ruin your day. You can minimize the impact of seasonal allergies on your life by reducing your exposure to allergens. Limit time outside, wear a respiratory mask, and make sure you keep your home and body clean. You can treat seasonal allergy symptoms with allergy medication, nasal rinses, and eye drops. [1] X Research source

Depending on where you spent the winter, you may be welcoming the warmth of spring, along with blooming buds and trees. But if you're one of the millions of people who experience seasonal allergies, you may feel less welcoming towards the allergy symptoms that spring can bring along with it too – sneezing, congestion, and runny noses. Before you make plans to completely avoid the birds and the bees, read through a few of our tips for minimizing your allergy symptoms this season.

How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

When is allergy season?

In most areas of the United States, spring allergies begin in February, and last until the early summer. Tree pollination begins earliest in the year followed by grass pollination later in the spring and summer, and ragweed in the late summer and fall. In tropical climates, however, grass may pollinate throughout a good portion of the year. Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollinate early. A rainy spring can also promote rapid plant growth and lead to an increase in mold, causing symptoms to last well into the fall.

How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

What causes seasonal allergies?

Allergy symptoms occur when your immune system is triggered into action by an airborne substance that’s usually harmless. Your body responds to that substance, or allergen, by releasing histamines and other chemicals into your bloodstream. Those chemicals produce the symptoms of an allergic reaction. In the spring, most seasonal allergies result from tree pollination. Birch is one of the most common offenders in northern latitudes, where many people with hay fever react to its pollen. Other allergenic trees in North America include cedar, alder, horse chestnut, willow, and poplar.

How can I reduce my exposure to allergy triggers?

There are a number of ways you can do to reduce your exposure to things that trigger your allergy symptoms:

  • Try to stay indoors on dry or windy days. Instead, aim to go outside after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air
  • Avoid lawn mowing, weed pulling, and other gardening chores that stir up allergens
  • After going outside, remove dirty clothes and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair
  • Don't hang laundry outside, because pollen can stick to sheets and towels
  • Wear a pollen mask while doing outside chores

How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

What can I do when pollen counts are high?

Seasonal allergy signs and symptoms can flare up when there's a lot of pollen in the air, so you may want to take a few extra steps to reduce your exposure to what’s in the air:

  • Check your local TV or radio station, your local newspaper, or the internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels
  • If the pollen count is high, start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start
  • Close doors and windows at night or any other time when pollen counts are high
  • Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest

How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

What types of over-the-counter remedies are available?

There are several types of nonprescription medications that can help reduce allergy symptoms, including:

  • First Generation OTC allergy medications include oral antihistamines. They are also the oldest group of OTC medications. They are sedating, which means they’re likely to make you drowsy after you use them. They also don’t last as long in your system as other medications, so they require more frequent doses than the newer generations. A commonly used first-generation brand is Benadryl, which helps relieve runny nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and nose or throat itching, andl can also be used to treat hives and to reduce redness and itching.
  • Second generation OTC allergy medications were developed more recently than their first generations counterparts. Because they work by targeting more specific receptors, there are fewer side effects associated with second generation medications. They also work longer in your body, so you’ll need fewer doses to get relief. Claratin, Zyrtec, and Allerga are all second generation allergy medications.
  • Topical antihistamine nasal sprays like Flonase are topical allergy treatments that help relieve sneezing, itchy or runny nose, sinus congestion, and postnasal drip. These medications can cause side effects such as a bitter taste, drowsiness or feeling tired.

If after trying these tips, you find you are still suffering from the symptoms of seasonal allergies, contact your provider. He or she may be able to suggest a number of other treatments available.

Whether your fall allergy symptoms are mild or miserable, here’s help.

Ah, fall. The perfect time to get outside for long walks in the neighborhood, hikes in the hills, and autumn gardening.

But that “ah” can quickly become “ah-choo” if you’re one of the 36 million Americans with seasonal allergy problems. The runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion — all typical fall allergy symptoms — can slow you down and make you miserable.

While there have been no dramatic advances recently in allergy treatment, experts say if you are allergy-prone, you can take a number of steps to minimize the misery.

1. Know Your Allergy Triggers

Triggers, or allergens, can vary by region of the country, but two main culprits are to blame for many fall seasonal allergy problems, experts say.

  • Ragweed and other weed pollens. Ragweed is a stubborn plant and grows easily in fields, along roadsides, and in vacant lots. A plant can produce a billion pollen grains in a season, and the grains can travel up to 400 miles because they are so lightweight.
  • Molds. Outdoor molds grow in heavy vegetation, hay and straw, and are found in raked leaves. Outdoor molds increase after rain, too.

Predicting how bad an allergy season will be is an inexact science, but there are some general links with weather, says Gary Rachelefsky, MD, a staff allergist at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital. “Usually when there is more rain, there is more pollen,” he says. Outdoor mold can increase, too, with more moisture. So if you live in an area struck by flooding or heavy rains in the spring or summer, you can probably expect a worse-than-usual allergy season.

2. Learn Do-It-Yourself Measures

It may sound obvious, but avoiding the allergens is the No.1 measure suggested by allergy experts. There are many steps you can take to eliminate or minimize your exposure to allergens and improve seasonal allergy symptoms. Among the often-cited measures:

  • Wear a protective mask when gardening or doing yard work.
  • Modify the indoor environment to keep out allergens, says Clifford W. Bassett, MD, vice chairman of the Public Education Committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. For instance, use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters in air conditioners to better trap pollen spores. “Change air condition filters often,” he says.
  • Check pollen counts before you travel. “If you are traveling with allergies, consider vacations near the ocean or bays,” Bassett says. “Pollen counts there are typically lower.” To find pollen counts, contact the National Allergy Bureau (www.aaaai.org/nab), which offers reports to the public. Or check your local weather report; some provide pollen and mold spore counts.
  • Protect your eyes. On vacation and at home, wear sunglasses when outdoors to reduce the amount of pollen coming into the eyes, Bassett suggests.
  • “Wash your hair at the end of the day to wash out pollens,” Bassett suggests. That will help avoid pollen transfer to the pillowcase.
  • Exercise in the morning or late in the day, Bassett says, when pollen counts are typically lower than at other hours. Know that pollen counts typically are higher on a hot, windy, sunny day compared with a cool day without much wind.
  • Check the dog. “Pets can bring in pollen,” says Pamela Georgeson, DO, member of the AAAAI Public Education committee and an allergist in Chesterfield Township, Mich. You might consider rinsing off the dog if it were outside on a high-pollen day, she says.

3. Get Proper Treatment

An allergist or your primary care doctor can recommend a variety of medications, some over-the-counter and some needing a prescription, to improve your seasonal allergies. Many are approved for use in children. A home remedy, nasal lavage, may help, too.

Topical nasal sprays, available by prescription, work well, says Georgeson. “They actually reduce the inflammation in the lining of the nose,” she says. Examples are Flonase and Nasonex. They contain medications called corticosteroids, which work by reducing inflammation and are “minimally if at all absorbed,” she says. The sprays are typically used daily, before and during allergy season.

Oral antihistamines are another option. Some, such as Allegra and Claritin (and generic loratadine), are now over the counter, Georgeson says, while others, such as Zyrtec and Clarinex, are by prescription.

A newer option is Astelin, a nasal spray antihistamine.

Antihistamines are often recommended along with topical nasal corticosteroids, Georgeson says. Antihistamines work by preventing more histamine (a chemical released during an allergic reaction) from being released.

Prescription eye drops can help itchy eyes.

Another option is the medication Singulair, also used to treat asthma, which works by blocking leukotrienes, substances which help cause allergy symptoms.

Nasal irrigation or lavage may help, too.

Many over-the-counter allergy options contain a combination of drug ingredients that may include a decongestant. Decongestants may elevate blood pressure and heart rate, so check in with your doctor to make sure that it is OK for you to take these.

A longer-term solution is immunotherapy, or allergy shots. Tiny amounts of the allergen are injected over time, provoking an antibody response. “It actually changes a person’s immune system,” Georgeson says. But it takes time. “Generally most physicians will treat from three to five years,” she says.

“Allergy injections are used more often in adults than kids,” says Ronald Ferdman, MD, attending physician at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. “Allergies change in kids. They could get worse or better, and they could get sensitive to different allergens. Most of the time they get worse.”

Under development is “sublingual” allergy therapy, says Bassett. Tiny amounts of the allergen are placed under the tongue, using the same concept as the allergy shots but with a different and more convenient delivery system.

4. Beware of Foods That Trigger Your Symptoms

If you have seasonal allergies to ragweed, be aware that eating certain foods may trigger your symptoms. “This is the concept of oral allergy syndrome,” Bassett says.

It’s a double-whammy, he says. About one-third of people with fall seasonal allergies will have a cross-reaction to certain foods, he says. Foods that might provoke symptoms in those with ragweed allergies, according to AAAAI, include bananas, cucumbers, melons, zucchini, sunflower seeds, and chamomile tea.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you know they’re no joke. The annoying symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes can sideline you from your daily life. Like clockwork, as winter comes to an end and spring appears, your allergy symptoms come back full force.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You have within your power to dramatically reduce those annoying allergy symptoms.

Below are nine tried-and-true ways you can reduce your seasonal allergy symptoms. The more tips you stick to, the better your results. You’ll notice your symptoms significantly diminish with each tip you use.

9 Tips To Reduce Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

1. Refrain From All Dairy Products

Dairy wreaks havoc on your system. Before refrigerators, no one ingested milk other than babies suckling from their mother’s breast. Dairy is a huge mucous producer in your body. Sounds gross, I know. But it’s true. By removing dairy alone from your diet can significantly reduce your symptoms.

If you love dairy so much you can’t live without it, try refraining from it when allergy symptoms are at their worst. When your symptoms disappear later in the season, add some back into your diet. You may realize you’re feeling so much better; you remove it from your diet permanently.

2. Eat As Clean As Possible

No, I don’t mean washing your hands before eating. Clean eating is all about steering clear of processed foods. Foods that are processed can be a real drag on your system. Your digestive system has a lot more work to do to clean up all the junk when you eat processed foods. So staying away from these types of foods and eating more fruits and vegetables is always a good strategy.

Eating clean also means eating organic whenever possible. I know eating organic is easier said than done, because it can be harder to come by and more expensive. But if you eat as organic as possible during the time you have flare ups, it will offload your system. Your body won’t have to use its resources to clean up the pesticides from non-organic foods.

3. Drink Plenty Of Water

Water is not only an essential macronutrient your body needs to survive, but it also boosts the immune system. Water is also responsible for flushing out toxins from your body through sweat and urination. Less load on your system, fewer allergy symptoms. Period.

4. Take A Vitamin D Supplement / Get Some Sun

Low vitamin D levels hinder your immune system. Whether it’s a supplement (be sure it is vitamin D3), or you get out in the sun, keep your levels optimized. It goes a long way in helping to reduce your allergy symptoms.

5. Stay Away From Sugar

Did you know your immune system is crippled for a few hours after eating sugar? You need to keep your immune system active during allergy season to help reduce symptoms. Removing sugar from your diet is good all the way around even when it’s not allergy season.

6. Increase Your Circulation

Increased blood flow promotes removal of allergens from your system. The fewer allergens, the fewer symptoms. Two ways to increase your blood flow is by aerobic exercise or adding some cayenne pepper to your diet. You can even make some cayenne pepper tea by heating up some water and adding cayenne pepper to it.

7. Eat Local, Raw Honey

A spoonful of local raw honey significantly reduces symptoms of seasonal allergies. This is due to the ingestion of local pollen that is contained in the honey. By ingesting the local pollen, you desensitize your system to the pollen in your environment. It’s the same principle used with allergy shots.

8. Clean Up Before Bedtime

Take a shower before bedtime to remove any pollen that may have accumulated on your clothes, body, and especially your hair. Without a shower, the pollen you acquired from your environment accumulates in your bed and onto your pillow. You end up rolling around in it all night which can aggravate your allergy symptoms.

9. Close Windows During Allergy Season

Give your immune system a rest when you are indoors. Stop bombarding yourself with allergens. Close your windows and allow your histamine levels to normalize.

These allergy relief tips may not completely take away your annoying seasonal allergy symptoms, but they can have a huge impact on reducing the severity of them. Hey, what have you got to lose but those itchy eyes, runny nose, and uncontrollable sneezes?

Peace and be well,
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Founder of Maty’s Healthy Products — a line of natural & organic health products made from whole food ingredients
Carolyn Harrington

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How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

Hi, I’m Carolyn

My healing journey began 20 years ago when my daughter was born with severe heart defects and I was suffering from RA. I found a way to heal that worked for both of us. Now, I’m passionate about helping others. That’s why I founded Maty’s Healthy Products and Breathe Love Heal Podcast.

Achoo! If the return of spring has you sneezing, coughing or itching, you’re not alone. One in five Canadians suffers from respiratory allergies such as allergic rhinitis. It occurs when the immune system overreacts to substances in the environment, triggering the release of histamine and other chemicals. This, in turn, causes the misery-inducing symptoms of seasonal allergies:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, burning, red and watery eyes
  • Itchy nose and roof of mouth
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Coughing or sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (due to allergies disrupting sleep)

There are two types of allergic rhinitis:

  • Seasonal allergic rhinitis is also known as called hay fever, but sufferers aren’t necessarily allergic to hay or other grasses (nor do they have a fever). These allergens can trigger an immune reaction:
    • Tree pollen, such as oak, maple, willow, birch, ash and pine (March to June)
    • Grass pollen, from blue, rye or Bermuda grass (May to July)
    • Weed pollen, including ragweed (August to October, or the first frost)

    To determine which substances you react to, ask your physician about allergy testing.

    Reduce your exposure

    Try these strategies around your home to keep pollen and other allergens at bay:

    • Keep windows and doors shut.
    • Turn on the air conditioner.
    • Use an air purifier (look for a model with a HEPA filter).
    • Stay indoors more often, or time your outings or outdoor chores to avoid the times when pollen counts are highest or when it’s windy. (Check the weather channel for pollen counts.)
    • After spending time outside, take a shower and change your clothes.
    • Don’t rub irritated eyes. Rinse them with cool water.
    • Rinse your nasal passages with saline.
    • Wear sunglasses or glasses outdoors.
    • Wear a pollen mask over your mouth and nose.
    • Clean your home often – vacuum floors, carpets and furniture, wash linens, wipe down surfaces, etc.
    • Don’t dry your laundry outside.

    Treating allergic rhinitis

    There are many over-the-counter remedies to treat allergic rhinitis, including antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays and eye drops. If you have severe allergies, your physician or allergist may prescribe immunotherapy (allergy shots or pills). Whichever treatment you choose, ask whether it could interact with other medications you’re taking, and always follow directions.

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    Seasonal allergies expected to run high this spring

    Spring can be challenging for those with seasonal allergies. It’s the season when grass, weed and tree pollens run high, causing allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever. These allergies come with irritating symptoms such as watery eyes, headaches, sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, and an itchy throat. In some cases, allergies can lead to asthma, a potentially dangerous condition causing breathing difficulties. How to minimize seasonal allergy symptomsRosemary Hallett treats patients with allergies and immunological diseases at the UC Davis Medical Group clinic in Roseville.

    “We’ve had lots of rain this year, and grasses and trees have grown earlier than usual,” said Rosemary Hallett, a clinical professor at UC Davis Health and an allergist at UC Davis Medical Group clinic in Roseville. “This means we expect a more severe year for seasonal allergies.”

    There are things allergy sufferers can do to reduce their symptoms, even during this tough allergy season, according to Hallett.

    Take control of your allergies

    Know your allergies: A simple blood test or a skin test at the doctor’s office can identify the substances you are allergic to. Identifying these allergens is important to develop an effective treatment plan.

    Avoid high exposure to pollen: While the weather might be warm and pleasant, avoid mowing the lawn yourself and stay away from moldy piles of leaves. People with seasonal allergies also should avoid irritants such as strong chemicals and pollution.

    Protect your indoor environment from pollen: On days when pollen counts are high, keep home doors and windows closed. Stay inside, especially during afternoons and evenings when pollen levels are highest. Cool your home using air conditioning but stay away from humidifiers and evaporative swamp coolers.

    Rid yourself from outdoor pollen residues: After being outside on high-pollen days, shower to wash away pollen, and put on clean clothes. Use saline nasal wash to help clear allergens from nasal passages.

    Consult your doctor: Ask your doctor about treatment options and follow that treatment plan.

    Treating allergies: From over-the-counter options to immunotherapy

    How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms
    Identifying the causes of your allergies can help with avoiding them. A skin prick test can quickly identify allergic reactions to dozens of common triggers, including mold, dust, pollen and pets.

    Recommended treatments for seasonal allergies start with avoiding irritants that cause symptoms.

    Your doctor can also recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications to treat seasonal allergy symptoms.

    “Nasal steroids work well,” Hallett said. “There also are good over-the-counter eye drops that can help lessen eye symptoms.”

    The next option Hallett considers for patients with tough allergies is immunotherapy, which addresses the body’s immune response to allergens. Through gradually increased exposure to specific allergens, the body builds tolerance to these substances until it stops seeing them as a threat.

    This treatment requires regular trips to a doctor’s office for injections (known as allergy shots) or under-the-tongue tablets, a newer treatment option.

    “This approach takes patience as it can be three to five years before treatment is completed,” Hallett said. “It also can be very effective for about 85% of allergy sufferers.”

    How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

    Miserable, incurable, and afflicting at least 35 million of us, spring allergies are fast approaching. They kick in when the immune system, mistaking pollens for harmful substances, responds by triggering the release of chemicals including histamines (the source of watery eyes, sneezing fits, and runny noses). On the bright side, an allergic response is the sign of an active immune system, and research has found that allergy sufferers have lower rates of many types of cancers. Still, allergies should be managed—they can lead to sinusitis if left unchecked—so with spring upon us, here’s my advice.

    Keep allergens out.
    Pollen can collect on your clothes, skin, and hair, and be tracked into your home, where it mixes with household dust. A shower and change of clothes will cut down on the irritants you inhale. Keeping windows closed and turning on the air-conditioning can also reduce allergy symptoms by filtering out pollen (just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the filter).

    Perk up puffy eyes.
    The histamines released during an allergy attack cause blood vessels to dilate, making eyes swollen and watery. For quick relief, try cold compresses or eye creams whose ingredients include caffeine; cold and caffeine both reduce swelling and help you look and feel better.

    Watch the weather.
    High winds and low humidity allow more pollen to become airborne. Under these conditions, try to stay indoors between typical peak pollen hours of 5 A.M. and 10 A.M., or at least take allergy medicine before heading outside.

    Understand your meds.
    Many people confuse antihistamines and decongestants—the go-to treatments for allergy sufferers—but these two medications affect the body in very different ways. Decongestants are for immediate relief; they work by contracting the small blood vessels in the membranes of your nose, slowing the flow of mucus. Antihistamines, however, work throughout the body to block the effects of histamines in the first place (which is why they work best when taken before symptoms occur).

    Go natural.
    In addition to the raft of prescription and OTC allergy medications, there are a number of natural supplements that may be effective in quelling symptoms—potentially with fewer side effects. (As with most supplements, talk to your doctor before taking them.) The herb butterbur has been found in some studies to work as well as antihistamines do, minus the drowsiness. Another herb that may help is stinging nettle, which research indicates can work like an antihistamine. Ideally you should begin taking these supplements (both available as capsules) before symptoms develop; try to start several weeks prior to allergy season.

    How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

    Seasonal allergy symptoms can be difficult to cope with. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, and red, watery, and itchy eyes. Fortunately, studies show the use of HEPA filter air purifiers in the home can significantly reduce pollen and seasonal allergy symptoms.

    Studies Show HEPA Air Purifiers Reduce Pollen and Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

    Multiple studies show HEPA air purifiers are effective at reducing seasonal allergy symptoms. One double-blind study showed significant reduction in allergy symptoms for those using a HEPA air purifier in their room versus the control group. After just 2-4 weeks, allergy symptoms and medication use decreased by 16%. The study also showed the HEPA air purifier removed the majority of particulates in the room, which are the typical cause of allergy symptoms.

    How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

    Researchers have also studied how HEPA air purifiers affect children with allergic rhinitis. One study showed children with allergic rhinitis had significant allergy relief, particularly nasal symptoms, when the HEPA air purifiers were used. A significant reduction of fine particulate matter was measured as well when the air purifier was in use.

    How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

    Sqair HEPA air purifier used in a bedroom for allergy relief

    How Do HEPA Air Purifiers Reduce Pollen and Seasonal Allergy Symptoms?

    Seasonal allergy symptoms typically result from exposure to particulates such as pollens and mold spores. These particulates typically range in size from 10 to 200 microns for pollen, and 4 to 20 microns for mold spores.

    How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

    Even smaller particulates under 2.5 microns in size, called PM2.5, are also shown to exacerbate allergy symptoms. These PM2.5 particulates are in the air nearly everywhere, even indoors. How small exactly are these particulates? Below puts in perspective how small a 2.5 micron particulate is.

    How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

    Air purifiers that use HEPA filters can trap 99.97% of all particulates above 0.3 microns on the first pass. This includes pollen, mold spores, dust mites, PM2.5 and other allergens. With a strong enough purifier, nearly all of these allergens can be removed from a room within 30 minutes.

    How to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms

    How to Choose an Air Purifier for Allergy Relief

    To find a HEPA air purifier for seasonal allergy relief, there are a few things to know. Ignore the marketing hype and avoid buying purifiers with add-ons such as ionizers and UV lights that can make your air worse. A HEPA filter is all that is needed for removing allergens from the air. There is also no correlation between an air purifier’s price and effectiveness.

    In addition, make sure the air purifier is strong enough for the room it will be used in.

    Check out our four step guide on how to choose the best purifier for more information on finding the best air purifier.

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