Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated August 23, 2013)
Many people around the world are affected by seasonal allergies. While seasonal allergies, by definition, come and go, they can be very bothersome, and can affect all aspects of daily life. For allergies that are only an issue a few weeks out of the year, short-term treatment with home remedies or over-the-counter medicines is often the best and easiest option.
Over-the-counter allergy medications seem to be available nearly everywhere these days, and in recent years a number of new allergy medications have become available. These are often effective for seasonal allergies, although each varies in effectiveness from person to person. Some formulations may cause drowsiness or difficulty sleeping, and care should be taken when trying out new medications. Several options are available that include both an allergy medication and a nasal decongestant, which can help treat multiple symptoms. A pharmacist may provide useful (and free) advice when choosing an allergy medication. A nasal saline rinse may also be useful in flushing out any irritants that may be stuck in the sinuses. You can find these at grocery stores and pharmacies, or you can make your own.
Because many seasonal allergies involve pollens and other allergens circulating in the air, it can be helpful to take steps to avoid pollens or clear them from your respiratory system. Weather reports online, on television, and in newspapers often report a pollen index. Where possible, avoid spending time outside on days when the pollen index is high, thereby reducing your exposure to the allergens, and avoid smoke from tobacco. When you do go outside, pollens often get in your hair and on your clothes and skin, and can follow you indoors. Taking a shower can be effective at removing these allergens that are so close to your respiratory system. A change of clothes can also be helpful. The same thing happens with indoor/outdoor pets, and washing your pet often can significantly cut down on allergens within your home.
There are other steps that can be taken to reduce allergen levels within your home. In addition to pollens, dust mites can act as allergens. Where possible, getting rid of carpeting in your home will eliminate a favorite place for dust mites to live (it's hard to hide on a tile or hardwood floor). Vacuuming regularly can be helpful as well. Watch out, though; some vacuums can stir up more allergens in the air and worsen your symptoms. Using a high quality vacuum and/or one with a HEPA filter can avoid this. Dust mites also live in mattresses, pillows and blankets. Mattresses and pillows can be replaced, and blankets can be washed frequently to cut down on allergens. Also, make sure that the filters on your furnace and air conditioner are replaced regularly, as this is a common place for allergens to accumulate and eventually circulate throughout the system. Dehumidifying the air will cut down on the growth of dust mites and molds; dehumidifiers can be purchased at most supermarkets.
Finally, perhaps the simplest suggestion: if you know what kicks up your allergies, avoid it. It may not always be simple in practice, but it can be the most effective. If gardening has you sneezing beyond control for a few weeks out of the year, take a break.
There are many different ways to treat your seasonal allergies—next time they come around, do not despair! You may not live allergy-free, but with a little extra effort you can find ways to avoid being miserable when allergy season comes around.
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