10 ways to feel better this allergy season

Consumer Reports News: March 24, 2010 11:57 AM

As the trees bloom and the flowers sprout up, many people look forward to going outside and basking in the warm, sunny weather. Not me. I’m in full-on panic mode. Year after year, when late March arrives, I can count on my hay fever symptoms to come along for the ride—itchy eyes, projectile sneezing, and a scratchy throat. And I’m just one of millions of seasonal allergy sufferers—actually around 60 million, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

If you’re like me and you’re searching for some relief from your spring allergies, our survey of more than 1,800 allergy sufferers will show what worked for other people. Our symptoms tool can help you find out how bad your symptoms are compared to others and what you can do about them, whether it’s avoiding the things that trigger allergies, finding the right medicine, or getting allergy shots.

One other step you may want to take is discussing your symptoms with a doctor. Most people in our survey who saw a doctor said the visit helped a lot, and 59 percent of those people said they had managed to rein in their symptoms.

Here are 10 other tips to help you cope this spring:

1. Try to stay indoors during peak pollen times, between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. If you can’t, it might help to wear sunglasses outdoors to block some of the pollen from getting into your eyes.

2. Avoid touching your eyes, even when they're itchy and it feels like the only thing you can do for relief is to rub them. Touching your eyes can introduce more pollen, dirt, and germs. Dab them with a clean tissue or rinse them with water instead.

3. Keep outdoor activities to a minimum when the pollen count is high. If you can, have someone else mow the lawn and wash the car.

4. Keep a diary to help track when and where your allergy symptoms occur. Then take steps to limit your exposure.

5. Keep pollen far away from where you sleep, since it can keep you up at night. Don’t lay clothing or items you’ve worn outdoors on or near your bed. And this means avoiding hanging sheets and clothes outside to dry—at least until the allergy season ends.

6. Get into a habit of washing your hands regularly. This tried-and-true advice for helping to prevent the spread of colds and the flu is good advice for lessening allergy symptoms, too.

7. Try to shower or bathe before bed, especially if you’ve spent time outdoors. Pollen transferred from your body and hair to your pillow can make for a miserable night.

8. Take a vacation away from ragweed. If you live in Eastern states or the Midwest, it may be a good time for you to take some time off and get some relief by going out West. Rocky Mountains, anyone?

9. Keep your windows closed at night to keep the pollen count down. If possible, use air conditioning, which cleans, cools, and dries the air.

10. Track the pollen count for your area. Newspapers and TV often report the pollen count, especially when pollen is high. You also can call the National Allergy Bureau at (800)-9-POLLEN or check its Web site for pollen counts for your region. You can also sign up for regional pollen-level e-mails. Just type in your ZIP code and e-mail address, and two daily alerts show up in your in-box.

A word on allergy shots: Don’t expect to toss your allergy pills, sprays, or eye drops if you’re getting these shots. Only 2 percent of the respondents to our allergy survey relied exclusively on shots and no other prescription meds.

Ginger Skinner

Find out what makes some people more prone to allergies than others. For expert advice and tips on coping with allergies, take a look at our new report and Treatment Ratings (subscribers only). And we'd like to hear from you: Got any tips for relieving allergy symptoms?

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