By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director
Are you or your loved ones sneezing, wheezing and reaching for tissues? Welcome to spring – and seasonal allergies.
Every year, pollen and mold trigger uncomfortable allergic reactions from February to early summer across the United States. In severe cases, it can take allergy shots and prescription medications to alleviate the symptoms. For those seeking relief without visiting a doctor, try these tips:
This teapot-like device can relieve congestion and sinus pressure by flushing mucus out of nasal passages. When used correctly, neti pots are generally considered safe, even for children. To prevent infection, prepare a saline nasal rinse at home. Use distilled or boiled and cooled tap water and clean the device thoroughly between uses. For a hassle-free option, try a ready-to-use nasal spray, available for purchase in drug stores.
Good housecleaning habits can help keep allergies at bay:
- Keep windows and doors closed when possible and leave shoes outside.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to clean floors and carpeted surfaces.
- Regularly launder outdoor play clothes, bed sheets and pillowcases. Machine dry instead of using the clothes line. Pollen and mold can cling to fabric when it dries slowly.
- If your pets spend time outdoors, consider bathing them more frequently during allergy season.
OTC Medications and Herbal Supplements
Antihistamines, nasal steroids, decongestants and cromolyn sodium are all common over-the-counter medications used to treat the symptoms of allergies. Available in spray or capsule form, they work by blocking the release of histamines that trigger allergy symptoms or lowering mucus and sinus pressure.
In clinical trials, some herbal supplements and nutrients, such as butterbur, have shown potential for curbing allergy symptoms. But they may not be as effective or safe as medication, especially for long-term use during allergy season.
If you know what causes your allergies, take steps to avoid the triggers:
- Check local weather reports for pollen and mold counts and stay indoors when they’re highest, generally at midday and in the afternoon. Plan kids’ outdoor playtime for the morning.
- When you garden or mow the lawn, wear a face mask and goggles to block pollen and mold from entering your nose, mouth and eyes. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask.
- Minimize other allergy triggers such as foods, insect bites and chlorine, which can exacerbate symptoms.