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If you’re looking to relieve or prevent allergy symptoms, here are some actions you can take right now, as well as some more permanent changes you can make.
Keep doors and windows closed
This doesn’t mean becoming a shut-in. You might welcome the gentle breeze from an open window, but if you’re allergic to grass, ragweed, or trees, opening a window can invite pollen into your personal space.
Before airing out your house, use a weather app to check the daily pollen index. There are also weather forecasts for wind. Keep doors and windows closed on days when the pollen index for your allergy trigger is moderate or high, especially if winds are strong.
Use an air filter
Air filters are available in a range of sizes and capacities with designs much like fans and electric space heaters. And they work similarly — the main difference being that they circulate air through filters.
Using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, often combined with another filter, may be the easiest way to improve air quality in your home or main living areas.
A HEPA filter removes particulate matter from the air, like pieces of pollen and dust mites.
Change your filters regularly
Air filters only work effectively for so long before the filter is basically at capacity with dust and particles.
Change your filters every 30 to 90 days, depending on the severity of your allergies and whether you have pets. Again, HEPA filters are designed to reduce dust, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens.
Also, you may want to get your home’s air ducts inspected — and cleaned, if needed — if you suspect they are leaking or full of contaminants. This will further reduce the presence of allergy triggers.
Carpet can trap allergens, so vacuum at least once or twice a week. If you have heavy drapes, vacuum these, too.
If necessary, choose a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
Also, don’t neglect regular dusting of blinds, baseboards, ceiling fans, furniture, and other surfaces.
Run a dehumidifier
For a mold allergy, it can help to keep the humidity level in your home below 50 percent to prevent mold. Install a dehumidifier in your basement, one of the most common locations for mold to grow. And if you suspect mold in your home, schedule a mold inspection and then take steps to remedy the problem.
A water leak behind your walls, a previous flood, a leaky foundation, or a leaky roof can create environments conducive to mold growth.
You can use a humidity monitor, also called a hygrometer, to measure humidity levels in rooms in your home.
Remove indoor plants
Some indoor plants can trigger allergy symptoms. Bringing firewood into the home is another trigger.
If you start sneezing or coughing, or develop post nasal drip or a sore throat after bringing firewood or plants inside, remove them from the home and clear away the area where they were stored to see if your symptoms improve.
Take a shower and change your clothes
Keep in mind that when you come into contact with pollen, dander, or dust allergens they can attach to your clothes, skin, and hair. If your symptoms are severe, remove your clothes after arriving home and take a quick shower to freshen up.
Go outside after it rains
This tip is less about avoiding allergy triggers and more about taking advantage of those moments when pollen tends to be lower (i.e., after a rainstorm).
A good rain shower can literally clear the air for a period of time. So this might be a good time for you to exercise outdoors, cut the grass, or do some gardening.
Cover your arms and legs
If you’re allergic to grass, trees, plants, or certain insects, skin exposure can lead to hives and itching. Protect your skin by wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants. This can be helpful for seasonal allergies and for allergic contact dermatitis.
Switch to unscented products
Sometimes, a certain scented shower gel, shampoo, or perfume induces allergy symptoms, especially skin rash. You may either be allergic or sensitive to an ingredient. Cut back on the number of products you use to pinpoint what does and doesn’t trigger a reaction. Once you find the culprit, discontinue use.
If you are sensitive to all scented products, make a concerted effort to use unscented personal hygiene products.
Drink warm beverages
Allergens can also increase mucus production, causing a sore throat and coughing. Breathing in steam can thin mucus and relieve symptoms. You may get the same relief from eating or drinking hot liquids, such as teas, soups, and broth.
Hold your head over a hot, steamy bowl of water until it cools, or run a hot shower and sit in the steamy bathroom. If you don’t like hot liquids, drinking cool or room-temperature water can also thin mucus.
Wear a dust mask
A chemical sensitivity can also produce allergy symptoms. Put on a dust mask or similar face mask before using cleaning products or paint.
You can also reduce allergen exposure by covering your face while you’re dusting and doing yard work.
Rinse your nose
Rinsing your sinuses can flush allergens and other irritants out of your nose, reducing allergy symptoms. Add saline or a saltwater solution to a neti pot or another nasal irrigation system.
To create your own saltwater rinse:
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to 8 ounces of distilled water or boiled water that has been cooled.
To rinse your sinuses:
- Tilt your head to the side and lean over a sink. Alternatively, you can do this while standing in the shower.
- Slowly pour the solution into your upper nostril so that it can drain out your lower nostril. Make sure you breathe through your mouth while rinsing your sinuses.
You can also buy prepared saline solutions.
Wash bedding and stuffed toys
Dust and other allergens can collect on bedding, pillows, throw blankets, and stuffed toys in particular, since fabrics and items with lots of textures have more nooks and crannies for dust to collect on.
Wash these items in hot water regularly to reduce allergens and allergy symptoms. Wash your bedding once a week and the other items every so often as well.
Don’t leave clothes in the washer
Put your clothes in the dryer as soon as they’re finished being washed. Leaving clothes in the washer for prolonged periods of time can trigger mold growth. If you accidentally leave items in the washer, rewash these items before putting them in the dryer.
Keep in mind that hanging clothes outside to dry can bring outdoor allergens inside your home.
Change your laundry detergent
The ingredients in laundry detergent and dryer sheets tend to stay in your laundered clothes. Some of those ingredients, whether it’s dyes, scents in the detergent, or other chemicals, might be irritating your skin long after laundry day.
If you tend to experience contact dermatitis with a contact rash, try:
- using a fragrance-free, dye-free, liquid laundry detergent
- putting clothes through an extra water rinse
- opting out of dryer sheets, using half a sheet per load, or using an alternative like wool dryer balls
Get nonsmoking rooms
Request a nonsmoking room when booking a hotel stay and only choose smoke-free restaurants. If you visit a place that allows smoking, take a shower and wash your clothes as soon as you can.
Smokey environments can trigger allergic rhinitis — with familiar symptoms like stuffy nose and postnasal drip.
Consider your heat sources
Keep in mind that smoke from a wood-burning fireplace can also cause allergy symptoms. Consider alternative heat sources like electric heaters and temporary insulation solutions like insulation film for windows and insulating curtains to improve heat retention in your home.
This might help reduce your wood-burning needs, thus reducing your exposure to smoke.
Major home changes
Some people experience severe allergy symptoms that don’t improve. In such a scenario, it might be time to take other measures. For certain persistent allergies, more aggressive measures might include changing the place you live — either by modifying it or moving out.
- Hard floors instead of carpet or rugs. You can look into removing carpet and replacing it with hard floors, like tile, laminate, or wood. Hard floors can lessen symptoms because these surfaces are less likely to trap allergens.
- Electric or gas heaters. Instead of relying on a fireplace or wood-burning stove for heat, use an electric or gas heating system if possible. These don’t create the ash and particles that wood fires do.
Let people know about your allergy
If you know or suspect you have a severe allergy, it’s important to work with an allergist if possible. Also, notify your healthcare providers. For example, an allergic reaction to latex can occur after a dental, medical, or surgical procedure.
It could even crop up while you’re eating food. If you have an undiagnosed latex allergy, you may mistakenly think you’re allergic to a food that was handled by someone wearing latex gloves. If you have a latex allergy, you can also experience cross-reactions with certain foods.
Communicating with the people in your life can help you to better manage your allergies.
Wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace can also help alert others to your allergy, in case you’re unable to communicate after an accident.
Talk to your doctor or an allergist about allergy testing to determine your individual triggers. Your doctor may perform a skin test, which usually involves pricking your skin with different allergens to see if there’s a reaction. Or they may order a blood test.
Blood tests can also look for a specific antibody in your blood because of an allergy to a particular allergen, which can exclude or confirm a specific allergen. To help relieve symptoms, a doctor or pharmacist may recommend an appropriate antihistamine or allergy shots.