13+ Tricks to Prevent Spring Allergies From Taking Over Your Life

Taking an antihistamine isn't the only way to battle spring allergies. Here's what else you should be doing.

Adapted from 1,801 Home Remedies (Reader's Digest Association Books) and
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    Eat the right foods.

    Improper eating habits aggravate many health problems, including asthma and seasonal allergies. Medical studies have repeatedly concluded that powerful chemicals called antioxidants—found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, green tea, and other foods and beverages—help battle inflammation inside your body, a critical factor in controlling allergies. (Of course, don't load up on an antioxidant-rich food if you are allergic to it.) You can also try eating more foods rich in omega-3s. These include fish, eggs, walnuts, and flaxseed oil.

    Lose your extra pounds.

    Carrying excess weight makes it harder to breathe—a problem you don't want when you're suffering from allergies. More fat around your abdomen prevents your lungs from fully expanding and your diaphragm from moving downward, because they have to fight all that fat. In other words, you can't get a good, deep breath. Losing weight will make getting the oxygen you need easier.

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    Reduce stress.

    Every time you're confronted with a stressor, your body releases a cascade of stress hormones. They, in turn, send a volley of signals to various parts of your body to prepare it for action. If this happens day in and day out without physical release, stress can inflict its damage by affecting the very network that is supposed to guard your health: your immune system. A weakened immune system increases your chances of allergic reactions. Learning to control stress—or, at least, the way you react to stress—can help.

    Complement your regular allergy medication.

    The following alternative remedies, when paired with your regular antihistamine, may relieve allergy symptoms: • A daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that includes magnesium, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and all the B vitamins. • A cup of peppermint or chamomile tea each night before bed. • Your choice of herbal supplements, dried ivy leaf, or pycnogenol. • A daily dose of echinacea taken two weeks on, two weeks off.

    Keep air conditioning and furnace filters fresh.

    It's important to change filters every three months and use filters with a MERV rating of 8 to 12. A MERV rating tells you how well the filter can remove pollen and mold from the air as it passes through.

    Run the air conditioner at home.

    Leaving doors and windows open is a good way to invite allergens and other irritants inside your home. (Same in the car, by the way.) Avoid using window fans to cool rooms; they can suck pollen indoors. Turn on the dehumidifier. You should keep humidity levels below 50 percent to kill dust mites, but above 30 percent to avoid making your home too dry.

    Make these front entrance changes:

    A doormat made of natural material (such as rope or other fibers) can break down and become a good environment for mites, mold, and fungus, which then get tracked into the house. Use a synthetic one, and wash all mats weekly. Also, clean dead insects from porch lights. As they decompose, they become an allergen source. Finally, put a rack by the front door for footwear. Encourage your family and guests to remove their shoes when entering. This will reduce the amount of dust, mold, and other allergens that are tracked in.

    Detect your home's hotspots.

    It may not seem logical, but indoors is often worse for your allergies than outdoors. Fabric-covered furniture and pillows, carpeting, tightly sealed windows, and warm, damp spaces can all contribute to allergies. Research shows that indoor air pollution can be up to 10 times greater than outdoor pollution and its effects much more intense, since we generally spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors. Do a top-to-bottom inventory of your house to determine where allergens are congregating (bedding, carpet, damp areas, and air filters are likely spots) and clean them up.

    Spring clean your bedroom.

    Tackle the dust: Clean behind the bed and dressers, under the bed, and on the top of the ceiling fan. Always use a damp cloth; dry cloths just spread the dust around. Then, eliminate these dust and dust mite magnets: wall-to-wall carpeting, blinds and curtains, down-filled comforters, anything made with feathers, stuffed animals, and upholstered headboards. Strip your bed. Wash everything, including the comforter or blankets, in 130°F water. Wipe down the mattress with a damp rag. Bedroom items that can’t be washed, such as pillows, mattresses and box springs, should be covered in tightly woven, hypoallergenic dust-mite covers. Stuffed animals and throw pillows should be eliminated or kept to a minimum. Lastly, make the bedroom a no-pet zone. Keep your door shut so they can’t even cross the threshold.

    De-allergize your closet.

    Keep clothing in zippered plastic bags and shoes in boxes off the floor. Forgo mothballs in favor of cedar chips, or store clean woolens in sealed plastic or airtight containers. You can also place garments in the freezer for several days to kill moths and larvae. Also, check corners and walls for mold. You may have a leak you’ve never noticed because it’s in the back of a dark, crowded closet.

    Get mold out of the bathroom.

    Check under and behind toilets to make sure there’s no mold growing because of condensation. Make sure toilets are installed properly so water doesn’t leak into the walls or floors, which could encourage mold. Also, wash the shower curtain in hot water once a month, or replace the liners every couple of months. You should also wash the bath mat in hot water every week. The dampness from stepping onto it wet from a shower can attract dust mites and cause mold growth. And run the exhaust fan or leave the window and door open when taking a shower or bath.

    Get the kitchen under control.

    Put the contents of all open boxes of food in airtight containers to discourage insects. Clean the tray under the refrigerator with a bleach solution. It’s a mold magnet. Add salt to the drip tray to help reduce the growth of mold and bacteria. Don't forget to check under the sink. Quite often, a sink sprayer leaks around the fittings, and water drips under the sink, soaking everything down there and creating a perfect environment for mold.

    Clean up the living room.

    Get rid of your overstuffed couch. Replace it with leather or vinyl, which will not be as hospitable to dust mites and other allergens. Consider replacing the carpet. Solid-surface flooring, such as laminate, vinyl, or wood, is much less likely to harbor allergens. For the same reason, consider swapping fabric window curtains with simple shades. Check your houseplants. Put pebbles on top of the dirt to prevent mold spores from getting into the air too easily.

    Go through the basement.

    Inspect every inch of your basement, including crawlspaces, for signs of dampness and mold. If you find any, clean the area with bleach solution. Check all belongings stored in the basement. Anything that is stored directly on a concrete floor—such as boxes, newspapers, clothing, or wood—is vulnerable to mold and rot from condensation. Measure the humidity with an instrument called a hygrometer, available in most hardware stores. You want a reading below 50 percent.

    Shower and wash your hair before bed.

    Cleaning up before getting into bed helps remove pollen from your hair and skin, which reduces irritation. You should also consider keeping pets out of the bedroom if they’ve been outside, as pollen can cling to their fur.

    Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors.

    Covering your eyes keeps pollen and other irritants away from this sensitive area, which reduces itchiness and redness.

    Minimize activities outdoors when pollen counts are at their peak.

    Pollen is typically at its highest point during midday and afternoon hours, so those who suffer with allergies and asthma should avoid going outside during those times of day.

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