Does spring have you sniffling and sneezing? Here, tips for easing the pain of seasonal allergies.

Spring has sprung. Trees have burst into leaf, flowers are budding — and for millions of allergy-sufferers, sneezing, congestion, sniffling and itchy eyes have become a way of life.

The major culprits? In early spring, it’s the wind-borne pollen from trees, and later on, grasses cause even more trouble. For most people, allergy symptoms are worst during hot, dry or windy days when there’s a lot of pollen and mold in the air.

And while you might not be able to completely avoid allergy symptoms, you can take steps to ease the pain. Here are some tips from The Mayo Clinic.

Reduce your exposure to pollen

There are several ways you can reduce your exposure to allergy triggers:

Stay indoors on windy days The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps to clear pollen from the air.

You can also get a heads-up on out door allergens by checking the pollen forecast and air quality index in your local weather report.

Delegate yard work such as mowing the lawn, pulling weeds and other gardening chores. If you do work outside, wear a dust mask and avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.

Keep the outdoors outside by closing your windows (including car windows). Remember that your window screens cannot protect you from microscopic pollen and mould spores. Allergens also have the annoying habit of sticking to clothing, so shower and change immediately after outdoor activities, and avoid drying sheets or clothes outside.

Also, avoid tracking allergens all over your home by leaving your shoes at the door — preferably on a rubber mat that won’t trap particles and can be cleaned easily.

Ban your pets from your bed or couch since pollen clings to pet fur. (See What to Do If You’re Allergic to Your Pet)

When pollen counts are high, consider taking your allergy medication before symptoms start.

Keep indoor air clean

Here are some ways to help eliminate allergens from your home:

– Use the air conditioner in your house (and car).

– Install a micron allergy-grade filter in your ventilation system.

– Use a dehumidifier to help keep indoor air dry.

– Consider using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom.

– Clean floors with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or HEPA filter.

And last but not least, don’t skip the spring-cleaning!  If you’re allergic to dust mites, you may want to take these extra steps:

– Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in allergy-proof covers.

– Wash sheets and blankets in water temperature of at least 130 F (54 C).

– Vacuum floors frequently (at least weekly).

– Consider replacing your carpets with laminate flooring or another hard material that won’t collect dust mites and other allergens. (This is especially important for your bedroom).

– Swap your old dust rag for a microfibre clothe that will trap dust better.

– Consider wearing gloves and a mask while doing chores that stir up dust — like vacuuming or dusting.


Medications for relief of symptoms

A number of over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications can help control seasonal allergy symptoms, including:

Nasal corticosteroids. Corticosteroid nasal sprays are considered an effective medication for seasonal allergies and are often prescribed for more troublesome symptoms.

Antihistamines. Antihistamines help relieve itching, sneezing and runny nose for many allergy-suffers. (They are less effective for allergy-related congestion.)

Decongestants. For help with congestion, these medications are available in both over-the-counter and prescription liquids, tablets and nasal sprays. Note : Always consult your doctor before taking any medications. (According to the Mayo Clinic, oral decongestants can elevate blood pressure and worsen prostate problems.) Decongestant nasal sprays should only be used for a few days, since prolonged use can make nasal congestion worse.

Other treatments for seasonal allergies include allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots), and nasal irrigation (which involves flushing out mucus and irritants from your nose with a squeeze bottle or neti pot). To read more on allergy medications, click here.

Alternative therapies

Some people also seek allergy relief from various herbal remedies, including extracts of the shrub butterbur, cat’s claw, choline, goldenseal, stinging nettle, belladonna and bromelain. And some claim that locally produced honey helps reduce allergic reactions by boosting the immune system.

Other alternative therapies include use of probiotics, acupuncture, hypnosis and “allergy removal” programs. However, most medical experts warn there’s no solid scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of these treatments.

When to see a doctor

For many allergy-sufferers, avoiding allergens and using over-the-counter medications or other treatments provide enough relief to make it through the season. But if your symptoms persist or make you extremely uncomfortable, you may need skin tests or blood tests to find out exactly what allergens trigger your symptoms. In some cases, congestion and other unpleasant symptoms could be food-allergy related rather than environmental.