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Nothing to Sneeze At

Spring means flower buds and blooming trees — and if you're one of the millions of people who have seasonal allergies, it also means sneezing, congestion, and other bothersome symptoms.

Lindsay Morris
March 28, 2019

Do you spend the spring hiding indoors in order to avoid pollen? Do you stock up on over-the-counter allergy medications and pray for the best? Spring is here, which means Oklahoma allergies are guaranteed to rear their ugly heads.

Seasonal allergies are not just annoying; they can even be embarrassing. Your eyes start watering, and get itchy and red. You start sneezing uncontrollably and your nose won’t stop running. You’ve spent your fair share on tissues and allergy meds, and you’re tired of explaining to your friends that you’re not sick — you just have allergies.

Obviously, allergies can be caused by a lot more than just the changing seasons. Things like animal dander, dust mites and mold also cause allergy flare-ups. Sometimes, avoiding allergens seems like it’s next to impossible.

It’s time to come out from the fear of allergies. It’s time to stop hiding from beautiful, colorful spring flowers and instead stroll through Woodward Park with your head held high, breathing in all the scents of spring deeply. It’s time to stroll around your friend’s house without sneezing uncontrollably after petting her cat.

Here are a few handy tips on how to avoid allergies this spring.

Clean your house
One of the first areas to start is your bed. Beds collect all of the allergens that stick to us throughout the day. Wash all of your bedding once a week. Be sure to dust regularly. If the actual process of dusting causes your allergies to flare up, then wear a mask while you clean. Vacuum once or twice a week. If you have skin allergy sensitivity, you’ll want to avoid using scented detergent and other products.

Boost your immune system
Having a stronger immune system can make you less susceptible to allergies. Practical ways to boost your immune system include avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol and unhealthy foods. Also, avoid infections by washing your hands regularly. Get adequate sleep, exercise regularly and do all you can to minimize stress. Maintain a healthy weight. Having a strong immune system is one of your best defenses to kicking allergies to the curb.

Get your blood tested or your skin pricked
Blood tests look for antibodies that are specific to a certain food type of allergen. It will take a few days to find out the results. While slightly riskier than blood testing due to the fact that it can trigger a reaction, skin prick testing can be done on your back or arm with a comb-like tool. A suspected allergen is added over the pricked area. A positive reaction could occur within a few seconds or could take 15 to 20 minutes.

Consider a sinus rinse
A saline solution can restore moisture to nasal passages and sinuses and curb inflammation of the mucous membrane. Products like Neti pots can help thin mucus, give you less postnasal drip and cleanse nasal passages of bacteria. You can also purchase an over-the-counter saline spray, which will clear pollen from your nasal passage. Or you can make your own nasal solution by mixing 3 teaspoons of non-iodized salt with 8 ounces of previously boiled water and insert it into your nose with a small squirt bottle.

Get allergy shots
With allergy shots, natural allergens are injected under the skin of the arm that cause the body to produce antibodies that block allergic symptoms over time. Obviously, allergy shots can be pricy, depending on what your insurance covers, but if you’re having severe allergies, this may be a good route for you to go until you become less sensitive to the allergen. It requires a time commitment as well, with visits needed one to two times a week at first.

Consider acupuncture
Maybe having tiny needles inserted under your skin sounds worse to you than actually having allergies. But if not, acupuncture might be for you! In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who tested positive for pollen allergies showed improvement in reaction to allergies after two months of acupuncture treatments. While the study concluded that more research regarding acupuncture treatment for allergies needs to be done, it may be worth exploring.

Care properly for your hair
Especially during allergy season, your hair can actually store pollen and be your worst enemy. Be sure to wash your hair each day. The best time of day to wash it is before bedtime to avoid transferring pollen to your pillow case. If daily washing makes your hair too dry, then thoroughly rinse it instead and follow up with a leave-in conditioner. Avoid using products like hairspray, dry shampoo and mousse because they can actually trap allergens.

Trim your lawn
Not only will your manicured yard be the envy of your neighbors, the shorter blades won’t trap as much pollen from trees and flowers. But because mowing can stir up pollen, ask someone else to do it — or cover your nose and mouth with a face mask or handkerchief.

Time when and how you go outdoors
Windy days will be most likely to kick up your allergies. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which clears pollen from the air. If yard work kicks up your allergies, then delegate those duties to a family member, or consider hiring lawn care. If you must do work outside, remove your clothing immediately after coming inside and launder it. Consider wearing a mask when doing outside chores.

Run right after it rains
The best time to hit the pavement is immediately after a downpour, because the moisture washes away the pollen for up to several hours. But once the air dries, take cover: The additional moisture generates even more pollen and mold, which can hang around for a few days afterward.

Put pets in their place
Dogs and cats that frolic outdoors can collect pollen in their fur and transport it into your home. During hay fever season, ban your pet from your bedroom or at least keep him off the furniture. Bathe your pets as frequently as possible or wipe them down when they come in from the yard with a premoistened cloth.

April 2020 Cover