Fighting back against allergies

Instead of hiding at home behind a mountain of tissues, try out these tips to combat those seasonal allergies. 

Personal care: 

Using a neti pot can ease those symptoms by clearing out the passageways of your nose. Fill the pot with lukewarm salt water made with sterile or distilled water. Or use boiled tap water after it cools down. Tilt your head over the sink, then pour the liquid into one nostril and let it drain out of the other. Using a bulb syringe or rinse bottle can yield the same relief.

If outdoors during a high pollen count, consider washing exposed clothing as soon as possible and keeping it away from other clothes. Taking a shower soon after allergy exposure will minimize the symptoms and hot showers are just the best.   

Consider alternative supplements to help nasal allergies. A Butterbur extract called Ze 339 works as well as antihistamines, according to webMD. Other studies show plant-based phleum pratense and pycnogenol may be helpful. 

Eating locally collected and unprocessed honey from your farmers market may have some allergy relief benefits, and ease coughing. However, unprocessed honey may also contain bits of mold or bee stingers not found in commercial, processed honey. Consume unprocessed honey at your own risk. 

Over-the-counter allergy medications can also help with symptoms. This includes antihistamines and decongestants. These medications come in pills, eye drops and nasal sprays.

Antihistamines are usually the first choice of treatment for seasonal allergies. They're fast-acting and good for easing congestion. They can help with symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, itching of the nose and throat, and eye symptoms.

Decongestants relieve nasal congestion. People often use them in combination with an antihistamine. Try to not use oral decongestants for more than seven days without checking with your doctor. Nasal spray decongestants should be limited to no more than three days. Longer use can lead to rebound effects.

If over-the-counter allergy medicine doesn't work, try setting up an appointment with an allergist. They will be able to pinpoint the causes of your symptoms and what you can do to alleviate them.




For the home: 

Place a plastic, easy-to-clean doormat right outside your door and have visitors wipe their shoes before entering. Pollen and other allergy triggers move into your home on your shoes. An easier option is to have guests take off their shoes at the door.

When the pollen count is high, try to keep windows and doors closed to cut down on exposure to triggers. Check out this website for more information about the local pollen count.  

Clean the air around you with a high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filter. It can capture up to 99 percent of the tiny allergy particles. It works best with pet dander and pollen, but not so much for dust mites. Consider looking for units tested by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers that list the clean air delivery rate (CADR). The number listed should be at least two thirds of your room’s square footage. 

You can also consider upgrading your furnace filter. Try pleated paper filters with a MERV (efficiency) rating of 7 to 13, which are almost as effective as a HEPA filter. To keep your furnace working well, change filters every three months. Another option to consider is a whole-house HEPA or electrostatic filter unit that is added to your heating and air-conditioning system.

If you’re looking for something that doesn’t have filters or fans, try electronic air cleaners. They change the electric charge on polluting particles. Some of these products release ozone, which can aggravate allergies. You can move the units from room to room or mount it on the ceiling.

Consider using humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and hygrometers to ease seasonal symptoms. Dust mites live in your bed, sofa, and carpets. The tiny creatures thrive in warm, moist air, so you can combat the little bugs if you can keep the indoor humidity low. But air that is too dry can irritate your nose. Try to aim for 30 to 50 percent humidity indoors. You can monitor that percentage with a hygrometer. 

You can use pillows and comforters filled with man-made materials, instead of dust mite friendly feather stuffing. It’s also recommended to cut back on throw pillows. For extra protection, use allergen-proof covers on pillows, mattresses, and box springs. 

Housework and yard work stir up a lot of allergy triggers, such as dust, pet dander, pollen and leaf mold. Shield yourself with a safety mask and gloves to cut down on contact with those triggers and chemical cleaners.

When dusting, try using a microfiber cloth to trap allergen particles instead of stirring them up with an old tee shirt or cotton towel. The microfiber cloth has fibers with an electrostatic charge that attracts and traps dust. And they’re machine washable. You can also get microfiber mitts for those hard-to-reach areas, delicate items, and special wipes for electronics.

Before you vacuum, consider steam cleaning carpets and upholstered furniture. Steamers can be rented at a grocery or home improvement store, or you can buy your own. Some manufacturers offer cleaning solutions that are specially made to control allergy triggers.

Vacuuming once a week can help allergy-proof your home, but standard machines can stir dust and allergy triggers into the air. Instead, trap the allergy triggers with a replaceable HEPA filter or a double bag in your vacuum.

Mold grows in warm, wet places like the kitchen and bathroom. To get rid of it, it is recommended to clean, disinfect, and dry the affected areas. Scrub away the mold with soap, water, and a stiff brush. Then disinfect with a mold-killing product that has 5 percent chlorine bleach, or use hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. Make sure to check for leaks, and use an exhaust fan to keep the growth from coming back.

You can cut down your allergy symptoms if contact with pet dander is kept to a minimum. Use a mild shampoo to wash your pet often, and you can also use a damp washcloth or pet wipes. Use plastic pet beds that can be wiped down, or wash the bedding in hot water at least once a week.

Purchase washable toys for your children. Stuffed toys collect dander, dust mites, and dirt. Check the labels when you buy them to make sure it’s washable. Toss them in the washing machine with hot water every week. Store them on shelves or in a hanging net, but not on the bed. You can also wipe down plastic or wooden toys with a damp cloth to combat your children’s allergies.

Contact Jacqui Atkielski at

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