If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may feel that spring comes with mixed blessings. Along with beautiful spring blossoms comes pollen. For about 40-50 million allergy sufferers in the U.S. (about one in five, including many children), pollen and other seasonal allergens can trigger sniffling, sneezing, runny nose, red itchy eyes and congestion. These are some pretty miserable symptoms to live with even temporarily; however, if you’ve assumed that over-the-counter medications are your best option you may want to consider a different approach this year.
Based on information from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), it’s important to identify your specific triggers and avoid these common mistakes:
Top 5 Spring Allergy Mistakes to Avoid This Season
* Treating symptoms without knowing what you’re allergic to.
You may think you know what’s causing your allergy symptoms, but more than two-thirds of spring allergy sufferers actually have year-round allergies. An allergist, a doctor who is an expert in treating allergies and asthma, can perform tests to pinpoint the cause of your suffering and then find the right treatment to stop it.
* Spending blindly on over-the-counter medications.
There are tons of treatments available at the store, some of which can be very effective. But if you’re buying new products all the time, spending a bundle and not feeling better, consult with an allergist who can discuss which options might be best for you. Your allergist may suggest nasal spray or allergy shots, also called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy can actually cure your allergies and keep you out of the drug store aisles for good.
* Waiting too long to take allergy meds.
Don’t wait until symptoms kick in and you’re already feeling bad to take allergy medication. Instead, prepare by taking medication that has worked for you in the past just before the season starts. Pay attention to the weather: When the weather turns warmer, pollens and molds are released into the air. Start treatment prior to the warm up.
* Not steering clear of your allergy triggers.
Finding the right treatment is important, but it’s also critical to start avoiding what you are allergic to. For example, if you have a pollen allergy, make sure you keep your windows shut, take a shower when you come inside and stay indoors during mid-day when pollen counts are highest. All of these things can make a big difference in how you feel.
How to Avoid Common Allergy Triggers
* Monitor pollen and mold counts — most media report this information during allergy seasons.
* Start allergy medications a week or two before the season starts.
* Don’t take a camping trip or go on a hike when pollen counts are high.
* Stay away from barns and hay, and try not to mow the grass or rake leaves.
* Wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of the eyes.
* After spending time outside, take a shower and wash hair, change clothes and rinse out the nasal passages with a salt water rinse.
* Close windows and doors during allergy season.
For more information about allergies and asthma, go to:
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (www.acaai.org)
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American (www.aafa.org).