5 Foolproof Ways to Fight Spring Allergies

It’s April, and that predictable yellow cloud of springtime doom has descended on our fair city in earnest. It’s the price we pay for living in such green, lush environs. Worth it? Depends who you ask. Between 10 and 20 percent of us are feeling the dreaded effects of allergy season (although it might make you feel better to know that there are 60 worse cities you could live in when it comes to allergies), but there are strategies you can use to minimize the symptoms. Let’s take a look at five:

Minimize exposure

This one is obvious. When the trees are really getting it on, close your windows and spend less time rolling around in meadows (that is how you typically spend your mornings, right?). Rainy days like the ones we’re getting this week clean the air, at least temporarily, so save any outdoor chores or convertible-top-down driving for the day after a good downpour. Pollen counts are generally highest in the mornings and on windy days, so avoid those when possible. When you’re in the car, set the ventilation to recirculate.

Keep it clean!

If you have spent time outside, be sure to shower before bed, even if you typically shower in the mornings. Pollen from your hair can end up on your pillow and then all up in your face every night. No good comes from that. A steamy shower can also help clear those stuffed-up nasal passages. While you’re at it, keep your house as squeaky clean as possible. Vacuum often, wash your bedding with borderline-unreasonable frequency, and dust regularly behind furniture, under the bed, on ceiling fans, and in other neglected spots with a damp cloth (you’re looking to remove the dust, not stir it up).

Go to an allergist

Not sneezing!  Image: Ian Southwell

Not sneezing!
Image: Ian Southwell

Seeing an expert is a great way to figure out what it is that you’re actually allergic to and develop a plan. That plan might include shots, eye drops, prescription antihistamines,  leukotriene modifiers, or enclosing yourself in one of those giant protectie bubbles for three months out of the year. Wait, scratch that last one.

Don’t eliminate exposure, honey

It seems counterintuitive and contradictory to our previous piece of advice, but getting small amounts of what you’re allergic to can help increase your tolerance. That’s essentially what an allergy shot is. Get some immunotherapy drops from an allergist or try eating some honey from a local beekeeper. Honey contains trace amounts of pollen, which, in theory, will help your body build up its tolerance. Scientists disagree about whether the local honey method actually works, but plenty of people swear by it. It’s worth a shot (or in this case, perhaps worth not getting a shot).

Filter all of the air!

Change the air filters in your HVAC system at the beginning of every season. They can’t filter anything if they’re all clogged up. Be sure you’re using a filter with a high MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating, ideally 9-12. HEPA filters do the best job of trapping pollen, mold, and other irritants, so if you can, incorporate them into your home’s HVAC or at least get a portable air cleaner or two for your home and/or office.