Allergies are the actual worst. And if you're like me, you're allergic to things you pretty much can't escape, like dogs, cats, and dust. But despite living with allergies year-round, I'm still never prepared for spring allergy season when it rolls around. Luckily, there are some excellent ways to prepare for spring allergies before they start to become A Thing — but I gotta be honest, even with all this prep, I'll definitely be stocking up on the nasal spray.
Unlike many of my friends, I managed to escape having food allergies, but it seems I traded that in with the allergy gods and ended up with a whole boatload of environmental allergies instead. I'm allergic to dust, pollen, horses, dogs, cats — you name it, I'm allergic to it. Of course, I also keep lots of houseplants, ride horses, and own a dog and four cats, so I fully accept some responsibility for the daily allergy challenges I face.
However, spring allergy season is totally not my fault. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America there are 50 million people in the U.S. affected by nasal allergies, which means when spring rolls around, there are 50 million miserable people dealing with the onslaught of pollen thanks to the trees doing their, you know, blooming and living thing. Ugh.
As we head into spring, allergy sufferers know to prepare for symptoms including a runny nose, nasal congestion, watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, and fatigue, among other things, according to the Mayo Clinic. But how you get ready for allergy season can help mitigate those symptoms. Here are some of the best ways to pre-season prep for spring.
1. Get Ready To Treat Your House Like A Space Station
OK, bear with me for a second. "Treat your house like it has an air lock" can sound kind of intimidating. But really, it's simpler than it seems.
Darria Long Gillespie, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine and head of clinical strategy at Sharecare, told Allure that there are still ways to help prevent allergic reactions when you go out into the pollen-filled air. One of those ways is to basically act like you're coming in from space and you need to get out of your suit and decontaminate before you head all the way inside.
"When you come in from outdoors, change your clothes and take a shower to rinse pollen out of your hair and off your skin," Long Gillespie explained. If you're not able to shower right away, she added, you should at least do it before you climb into bed, since you don't want to smear pollen on your sheets. If you've got pets that spend time outdoors, they should go through the same protocol, Long Gillespie said.
What this means in a practical prep sense: Consider getting a hamper with a lid to put near the door you use to enter your house, so you can get your clothes off asap once you're inside. Start adjusting your schedule to allow time for showering during the day. And finally, snag some pet grooming wipes and maybe even a paw washer for your furry BFFs.
2. Actually Do That Spring Clean
While pollen is definitely a primary allergy trigger in the spring, dust and even mold that's collected in your house over the winter can exacerbate your symptoms once you're already suffering thanks to the pollen. When it's warm enough, gear up and scrub down your house. Clean out your vacuum, and then vacuum everything you can reach — especially carpet. Long Gillespie told Allure you should do your best to minimize carpeting in your home, but if you've already got it, consider investing in a post-winter deep clean.
Family Allergy & Asthma, a group of allergy specialists in Kentucky and Indiana, also stresses on its website that you should wash things like curtains and couch covers to remove any dust. Basically, do the good ol' stereotypical spring clean, and you'll be extra prepared going into spring.
3. Start Tracking Pollen Counts
Get in the habit of tracking pollen counts so you'll see any patterns and will be ahead of the game in knowing the days when you need to stick to air lock protocol a little more closely. There are plenty of apps you can download that will give you a pollen forecast, including Pollen.com's Allergy Alert app, which includes five days of allergy and weather forecasts, including information about what the top allergens will be, as well as an allergy diary so you can track your symptoms. Google will even give you on-the-spot pollen counts if you search your city + pollen.
4. Get An Air Purifier — And Keep Windows Closed
Purifiers with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter systems can be lifesavers when it comes to keep out allergens after your spring cleaning. A lot of purifiers can cost a pretty chunk of change, but some are affordable, and as long as you keep them up with regular maintenance, they'll keep removing allergens including "[d]ust, cigarette smoke, pollen, and pet dander," according to fellow Bustler Lisa Fogarty.
If you've already got an air purifier, make sure it's clean and has new filters ready to handle the incoming influx of pollen. And, of course, whether you end up owning a purifier or not, make sure you keep your windows closed. It may be tempting to let in a cool spring breeze, but doing so will increase the amount of pollen you're exposed to, and if you do have a filter, opening windows will put more of a strain on it.
5. Consider Different Treatments
I'm one of those people who will find a medicine that works and stick to it — even when it's starting to become apparent that medicine may not be working quite as well anymore. While consulting your doctor, consider other treatments if your previous or current methods of handling your allergies haven't been working as well. You can consider new medications as well as medicine-free treatments like cleaning out your nasal passages with a neti pot or undergoing acupuncture.
Everyday Health reported that a study published in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology "found significant reduction of allergy symptoms for study participants who received acupuncture treatments 3 [sic] times per week for 4 [sic] weeks, as compared to pariticipants who did not receive it."
If you investigate new treatment options before allergy season has a chance to kick into high gear, you'll have a leg up on lessening your symptoms once the worst of it hits.
6. See An Allergist Before The Season Starts
And of course, the most important thing you should do before the season starts is to consult an allergist. Whether you're old hat or just realizing you have allergies, talking to an allergist to figure out what exactly you're allergic to, how you can make lifestyle changes to handle your allergies, and whether there are medicines that can help you is paramount.
Spring allergies are never going to be easy, let alone fun, to manage, but with these simple prep steps, you'll be well on your way to suffering a little less this year.