Spring allergies: Strategies to manage your symptoms better

March 23, 2021 in Disease Management  •  By Miles Varn, MD

This year, after pandemic stay at home orders and winter storms, you’re probably more excited than usual for the arrival of spring and the chance to spend more time outdoors. But for people living with allergies and asthma, spring can be a difficult season. The higher pollen counts and wet weather that encourages the growth of molds can cause uncomfortable symptoms for allergy sufferers and increase the risk of an attack for people with asthma.

Your primary care physician or allergist can recommend prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help you lessen the severity of the symptoms caused by your allergies, but there are also proactive steps you can take to mitigate your symptoms so you can enjoy your time outside this spring.

  • Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers. Most weather reports include daily pollen counts, often broken down by type of pollen. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology also posts pollen and mold counts. Use this information to plan outdoor activities like exercise or gardening. If the pollen count is expected to be high, you can consider putting your activity off. If that’s not an option, wear a mask (which you’ll still want to do even if you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19) that filters out dust and pollen. If you’re especially sensitive to grass pollen, you may want to ask a family member or friend or hire someone to mow your grass when pollen levels are high to avoid exposure.
  • Time your outdoor activities right. There’s more pollen in the air between 5:00 and 10:00 AM, so plan to be outdoors later to limit your exposure. Dry, windy days also mean increased amounts of pollen in the air, while pollen levels are lower after it rains.
  • Keep pollen out of your home and car. In your car, keep the windows closed and run your air conditioner with the vents for outdoor air intake closed. At home, especially when you’re sleeping at night, close the windows and run the air conditioner if it’s too warm. If you have a forced air heating and air conditioning system, use high efficiency filters and make sure to maintain your system. After spending time outside on high pollen days, take a shower and change your clothes so you don’t transport pollen into your house.
  • Consider using an air filter and dehumidifier. Some allergy specialists suggest using a portable HEPA air filter system made with fiberglass or an electrically charged system to help remove pollen from indoor air. A dehumidifier will help keep indoor air drier and discourage the growth of mold and mildew, which can be allergy triggers.
  • Clean your home and wash bedding. Clean surfaces, carpets, and heating and air conditioning vents to remove pollen and mold. If you have severe allergies or asthma, have someone else do the cleaning while you’re out. Also wash all your bedding each week to remove pollen, pet hair, and other allergens.
  • Prevent your pets from increasing your exposure to pollen and other allergens. If you have a pet who spends time outside, there are pet wipes that you can use to swipe off some of the pollen on their fur. You’ll also want to keep your pet off your bed. Not only could pollen be transferred to your sheets, your pet’s hair may also ramp up your allergy symptoms.
  • Don’t hang out your laundry. While it’s good for the environment and your electric bill, hanging laundry to dry outdoors can be a problem for people with allergies. Pollen and other allergens will settle on laundry left to dry outdoors. Especially avoid hanging out sheets, bedding, and towels, which come in close contact with your face. If you prefer line drying to using an electric dryer, get a drying rack or an indoor clothesline.
  • Keep plants in your home to a minimum. House plants with wet soil can not only bring pollen into the house, but also mold that thrives in moist dirt. You can still enjoy potted plants. Just keep them on your porch or balcony.
  • Be alert for more severe symptoms after it rains. Some studies have found an association between more severe allergy and asthma symptoms and spring thunderstorms. Storms suck up grass pollen then release it in a pollen-filled downdraft before the rain starts to fall. Take extra precautions, like those mentioned above, and the medicines recommended by your doctor before venturing out after a storm.



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