What goes around comes around—just as soon as you’ve gotten over spring allergies, they’re back at the end of the summer, making you sneeze and your eyes water. While you’d expect a day at the park or a walk around your neighborhood to trigger that reaction, even staying at home can make you prone to those seasonal sniffles.
As Neeta Ogden, M.D., explains, allergies are caused by allergens—“things that can span from pollen to pet dander to peanut protein.” Although we aren’t sure exactly why allergies exist, we do know that all you need is a onetime exposure to an allergen to develop an adverse reaction. While you can take care to not eat food you may be allergic to, airborne allergens are harder to avoid. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take measures against them.
Indoor Allergies vs. Outdoor Allergies
First, it’s important to figure out what kinds of allergies you have: Are your eyes itchy and your nose runny at a certain time of year? You might have seasonal allergies—those that are triggered by changes in the environment. In the fall, ragweed is a major culprit; in the spring, tree pollen is largely to blame.
If you have symptoms no matter what month it is, you might have indoor allergies, caused by allergens like pet dander, dust, or dust mites (microscopic critters found in upholstery, textiles, and mattresses). Allergic reactions exist on a spectrum—if you’re not sure if you’re experiencing one or just have a cold, consider getting tested by an allergist so you can figure out the best treatment.
How to Deal With Indoor Allergies
Sadly you can’t totally eradicate indoor allergens from your home—but you can reduce their prevalence. Ogden recommends washing your sheets in hot water and drying them weekly. (Don’t forget to wash your curtains as well.) If you suffer from a dust or dust mite allergy, pick washable rugs over installed carpeting. And by investing in an air purifier with a HEPA filter, which ensures a thorough level of filtration, you can actually remove some common allergens from your home. Of course, regular dusting is nonnegotiable.
How to Deal With Outdoor Allergies
If you see that the pollen count is high on one particular day, it’s best to limit your time outside. That said, with the right precautions, you can still enjoy the great outdoors: Take an allergy treatment (like an herbal supplement) before you go outside, and when you get back home, rinse your nose with saline, take a shower (ideally washing your hair if possible), and change into clean clothes—you want to avoid spreading any allergens to your sofa or sheets. Pollen counts also tend to be lower in the morning and at dusk, if you can strategize your outing.
You can still experience reactions to outdoor allergies when you’re inside. As seasons get more intense due to climate change, Ogden explains that seasonal allergens, too, get harder to avoid—even when you’re inside. Keep your windows closed—especially when you’re asleep—and turn on a fan or an air conditioner if you need to. “The whole point is avoidance,” says Ogden. “If you reduce your exposure to a known allergic trigger, you’re in a much better position than if you’re taking your chances.”
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