9 Habits That Make Seasonal Allergies Worse
Wearing contacts, stressing too much — do any of these sound familiar?
Seasonal allergies are bad enough, but are you making them worse? These nine habits could increase the misery of itchy eyes, a runny nose and sneezing. With a little planning and effort, you can ditch all of them and breathe easier.
1. Taking the wrong kind of medicine. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines often give enough relief, but you need to pick the right ones. Antihistamines (loratadine, fexofenadine and celtirizine, for instance) help with sneezing and itching. They may not do enough to unstuff you, though, according to the Cleveland Clinic. For that, adults may need a decongestant (not recommended for kids). Some prescription steroidal nasal sprays handle multiple symptoms. Antihistamine eye drops can relieve allergy-related itching.
If your OTC medicine isn’t working, ask your doctor if you need prescription medicines or a different OTC. According to a Consumer Reports review of allergy meds, “Some people may respond well to one antihistamine while getting no benefit from another.”
2. Not starting your meds soon enough. Most allergy medicines — even OTC antihistamines — work best if you take them well before you’re exposed to an allergen, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. That’s because they prevent your body from releasing histamine and other substances that lead to allergy symptoms. And guess what? Warmer winters make some trees bloom sooner, so your “spring” allergies may start earlier than you might think.
If your doctor prescribed a steroid nasal spray, she will probably advise you to start it before the allergy season begins. It can take up to a month before you notice benefits. Ask for the exact schedule.
Be sure to use nasal sprays correctly: Tilt your head forward and insert the applicator in the nostril. Spray and sniff, but don't snort. Repeat the steps with the other nostril. If you have the right technique, the medicine will work better and you may avoid nosebleeds, a possible side effect, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
3. Eating certain produce. Half or more of people with allergies to certain pollens can also react to certain produce, including apples, peaches and tomatoes, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. That’s because proteins found in the produce are similar to those in the pollen. If you notice allergy symptoms after eating the produce, you could have this condition, called oral allergy syndrome or OAS. Here, a list of common produce that may trigger OAS.
4. Running or mowing in the morning. Pollen counts from grasses and weeds are often high in the morning, according to the Cleveland Clinic, so it's good to plan your outdoor activity for later. Check local sources such as your TV news for pollen count information. Or, you can keep an eye on pollen counts here.
5. Being stressed out. Stress can make seasonal allergy symptoms worse, experts say. In one 2014 study, researchers followed 179 people with hay fever for 12 weeks, measuring stress levels and having them report flare-ups. The more stress, the greater the number of allergy flare-ups.
Related: Are You Making Your Stress Worse?
6. Wearing contact lenses. Pollen can stick to lenses, irritating your eyes and making eye symptoms worse. Ditch the glasses for a while and see if your symptoms improve.
7. Letting pollen in the house, bedroom, car. Keep the windows in your house closed from sunrise to mid-morning, advise experts, since pollen counts are highest then. In the car, keep the windows up. Put the air conditioning on and use the ''recirculate'' option to help keep the pollen out.
At home, banish your pet from the bedroom if he spends a lot of time outdoors. You may also need to cut back on cuddling. To reduce pollen further, consider a HEPA filter on your central air conditioning unit, the Cleveland Clinic suggests. When you come indoors, wash your hands right away to rinse off any pollen.
8. Skipping the hat and sunglasses. Wear tight-fitting sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes. You may notice less itching. Wear a hat, too, to keep pollen off your hair.
9. Not showering before bed. During allergy season, take a shower at night — and be sure to wash your hair — so you don’t bring all that pollen to bed and sniffle and sneeze all night as a result. Put on clean pajamas to sleep, not clothes worn outside or around the house, which may have pollen on them.
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