After a long, cold and stormy winter, millions of us are ready to celebrate the arrival of spring.
But sneezes, sniffles and more serious symptoms can make this a miserable season if you suffer from allergies and asthma.
Spring and summer wreak havoc because trees and grass are in full pollination mode, says Kenneth Mendez, president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
“People with seasonal allergies have symptoms when the pollen they are allergic to is in the air,” he says.
Allergies are the result of the body’s immune system overreacting to substances – such as pollen -- known as allergens. Allergens enter the body when you inhale, swallow, touch or inject them.
More than 50 million Americans experience seasonal allergies each year, AAFA says. Symptoms may include:
- Runny nose and mucus production
- Itchy eyes, nose, ears and mouth
- Nasal congestion
- Red and watery eyes
- Swelling around the eyes
Asthma is a respiratory condition in which spasms in the bronchi of the lungs cause difficulty breathing.
Allergic asthma – a condition in which allergens trigger symptoms -- is the most common type, impacting 60 percent of people with asthma, or 26 million Americans, AAFA says.
How to tame your asthma and allergy symptoms
Allergies and asthma can trigger symptoms that are uncomfortable – or dangerous, even life-threatening. Fortunately, you can take steps to mitigate these impacts.
Following are five ways to tame asthma and allergy symptoms:
1. Stay indoors – and keep the outdoors outside.
Mendez recommends reducing time outdoors when pollen counts are high. Also, keep windows closed and use central air conditioning instead so that allergens don’t drift into your home.
Remember that mowing the lawn and pulling weeds are likely to trigger symptoms.
Don’t want to stay cooped up inside? Experts suggest going out after it rains, when much of the pollen should be cleared from the air.
2. Take allergy medications early.
If allergy symptoms persist, see your doctor, who may prescribe allergy medications. These medicines keep the body from releasing histamine and other chemicals that trigger symptoms.
Mendez suggests taking such medications early in the allergy season - - even before the season begins if possible.
“Most allergy medicines work best when taken this way,” he says.
3. Buy a dehumidifier.
Humidity levels typically rise during the spring and summer. Experts say indoor moisture levels above 40 percent can increase the growth of molds, and even help dust mites and cockroaches to flourish.
A dehumidifier can help dry out the air. Running the air conditioner can serve the same purpose.
4. Keep pollen off your body.
Since pollen triggers allergy and asthma symptoms, it makes sense to keep it off your body.
Mendez suggests wearing sunglasses and a hat when outdoors. “This will help keep pollen out of your eyes and hair,” he says.
Bathe and shampoo your hair daily. Doing so before bedtime removes pollen and keeps it off your bedding.
And while you may like hanging laundry outside to absorb that fresh outdoor scent, doing so allows pollen to stick to your clothes, bedding and other items drying on the line.
So, use the clothes dryer instead.
5. Try unconventional ways of keeping symptoms at bay.
You also might want to try more unorthodox ways of keeping symptoms at bay.
For example, a recent study out of James Cook University in Australia suggests that the marine oils you obtain in a diet rich in fish may help tamp down inflammation and protect people against asthma attacks.
Another way to reduce allergies – in your kids, if not yourself – might be to buy a pet. A University of Alberta study found that babies from families with pets – particularly dogs – showed higher levels of microbes associated with lower risk of both allergies and obesity.