If you are among the 50 million Americans plagued by seasonal allergies, you already know how uncomfortable life becomes when pollen is in the air. But you might not know that some common allergy mistakes can make the sneezing, stuffy noses, and itchy eyes even worse.
Mistake 1: Spending unwisely on over-the-counter medications. Buying antihistamines, nasal sprays, and eye drops isn't necessarily a smart or cost-effective way to relieve symptoms. It's better to see an allergist who can pinpoint exactly what your allergies are and create an allergy action plan, said Dr. Bassett.
Mistake 2: Opening the windows. "Wind is not a good friend to people with seasonal allergies," Dr. Bassett said. "[Opening windows] is a big mistake for people with seasonal allergies because this allows pollens to visit." He recommends keeping windows shut, running the air conditioner to recirculate inside air, and using HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters to trap pollen.
Mistake 3: Not taking steps to keep pollen away. Your shoes, clothes, hair, pets, and glasses can all track pollen from outside into your home. "Wash hair at the end of the day to avoid transferring pollen to your pillowcase and sleeping on a pollen cloud," Dr. Bassett advised. It can also help to use saline nasal sprays, which are like a shower for your nose, to gently irrigate pollen from it.
Mistake 4: Neglecting your eyes. Pollen can enter the body through the eyes, so protecting your eyes by wearing a brimmed hat and sunglasses can help. Eye rinses can wash away pollen, and antihistamine eye drops can relieve red, itchy eyes.
Mistake 5: Waiting too long to take allergy medications. You should treat allergies at the onset of pollen season, rather than waiting until symptoms get more severe. Dr. Bassett said patients should begin taking their medications one or two weeks before their allergy season typically begins.
Mistake 6: Overusing nasal sprays. People should limit their use of over-the-counter nasal decongestant spray to a maximum of five days in a row; otherwise the spray may irritate the lining of the nose and sinuses.
Mistake 7: Eating foods that aggravate allergies.When some people with allergies eat certain fruits and vegetables, it may result in an itchy mouth or throat. It happens because the immune system recognizes a similarity between proteins in some pollens and those in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and spices. A person with a birch pollen allergy may develop oral allergy symptoms after eating an apple, carrot, peach, almond, or hazelnut. Try peeling, cooking, or avoiding the food altogether during allergy season, Dr. Bassett said.
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