Mind Body

7 tips for managing seasonal allergies

Simple ways to limit your exposure to allergens

It’s finally springtime, and you couldn’t be happier. You just went on a long walk in the forest preserve with your family and enjoyed the faintly warm air, beautiful spring flowers and great conversation. There was just one problem: You couldn’t stop sneezing and sniffling.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, know that you’re not alone: More than 50 million Americans experience them. Commonly referred to as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, seasonal allergies occur when you have an allergic reaction to the pollen released in the air by trees, flowers and other plants. Symptoms of seasonal allergies can include everything from sneezing and itchy eyes to a runny nose and congestion.

Read on for seven tips for managing seasonal allergies.

1. Make sure you’re truly allergic.

Because the symptoms of seasonal allergies are nonspecific, it’s important to make sure you actually have seasonal allergies and not something else, such as a sinus infection or the common cold. If you think you’re experiencing seasonal allergies, visit your primary care physician, who may run blood work and/or refer you to an allergist for further testing.

2. Track the pollen count where you live.

If you have seasonal allergies, consider tracking the pollen count in your area. (Local news stations and weather apps typically share information on pollen counts.) If the pollen count is particularly high one day, you can adapt your schedule to spend less time outdoors.

3. Skip the 6 a.m. run.

Pollen counts are always highest in the morning. If you have seasonal allergies, consider staying inside in the morning and not going outdoors until late morning or afternoon.

4. Change your clothes and shower as soon as you get home.

Pollen can travel for miles, which means that after you’ve been outside, it can be carried all the way inside your house on your clothing. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, it’s important to remove your clothes and shoes as soon as you get home and wash them as soon as possible. You should also consider showering immediately, as pollen can stay on your skin and hair.

5. Keep your indoor air clean.

Pollen is pervasive—once it travels indoors, it can linger for days. Keep your indoor air free of pollen by always keeping windows and doors shut. You should also keep your air conditioner on, and consider investing in an air purifier.

6. Try alleviating symptoms with a saline rinse.

Whether you have mild or more severe seasonal allergies, consider irrigating your sinuses with a neti pot or other nasal irrigation device. The saline in these rinses can break up mucus and reduce sinus swelling.

7. Talk to your doctor about nonprescription medication options.

There are several types of over-the-counter medication for seasonal allergies, from oral antihistamines (like Claritin) and decongestants (like Sudafed) to nasal sprays (like Flonase). Speak with your doctor about which medication is a good starting point for you.

To make an appointment with an Augusta Health physician to discuss your seasonal allergies, call (833) AHC-HLTH or visit augustahealth.com/primary-care.