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Health Connection: April 2019

5 Ways to Minimize Spring Allergies

Spring is finally here, bringing rising temperatures, blooming plants and longer days. If you’re one of the more than 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies each year, you may also be dealing with a runny nose, a cough or even a general feeling of sluggishness. That’s because spring is the season when pollen, mold and dust are released into the air.

If you’re one of the many allergy sufferers who also experience more serious side effects, such as wheezing, asthma, difficulty breathing and hives, seasonal allergies can compromise your well-being. As an allergy sufferer, you don’t have to stay inside all season, but you do need to take precautions to protect your health. Following a few steps to prepare for allergy season can set you up for relief throughout the spring.

1. Switch up your schedule
If you have allergic asthma or hay fever, then your symptoms will flare up when pollen counts are high. To limit the severity of reactions, experts from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America say to avoid outdoor activity during peak pollen times. Pollen counts typically rise in the morning between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and reach their maximum around noon. Counts begin to fall around midday, hitting a low in the early evening.

Structure your schedule so that you spend the most time outside before dawn or in the late afternoon and early evening. Rainy, cool, windless days may not seem like a pleasant time to be outdoors, but pollen is lowest
under these conditions.

2. Dress to protect yourself
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses can help shield your hair and face from allergens, say doctors from Yale Health. It’s a smart idea to change your clothes and shower when you come back inside. Rinsing pollen from your body can help control your sinus symptoms and protect your family, too.

3. Allergy-proof your home
Although you may be tempted to open the windows as the weather gets warmer, doing so may aggravate your allergies. The National Library of Medicine suggests cooling your home with air conditioning instead.
Changing your air-conditioner filters frequently and using a vacuum with HEPA filtration can also help keep pollen at bay. Controlling mold, pet dander and dust mites is also important, says the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). Wipe down surfaces in your home and fix leaks to limit the spread of mold. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic recommend washing your sheets at least once per week to remove allergens that lurk in fabrics. Use hot water that’s at least 130 F (54.4 C) to kill dust mites.

4. Update your medicine cabinet and get a head start
on symptoms
Your medicine cabinet should be on your list of spots to sort through during spring cleaning. Throw away expired allergy medications. You should also make an appointment to see your doctor so that you can get updated prescriptions. Allergists from the ACAAI recommend starting medication two to three weeks before your symptoms typically start. Taking antihistamines well in advance helps block inflammation, which means fewer allergy symptoms.

5. Eat the right foods
Researchers at John Hopkins University found that increasing your intake of antioxidant-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and green tea can help ease inflammation in the nasal passages. Eating plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, found naturally in foods like salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, eggs and brussel sprouts, can also protect against allergies and asthma, according to a study in the journal Allergology International.

Dealing with allergy symptoms can interfere with enjoying your life. With a few simple steps and a little advanced preparation, you can stay healthy this spring and minimize your symptoms all season long.

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