“Hay fever” (seasonal allergic rhinitis) affects over 20% of the people living in the U.S. Most common in early spring, the symptoms of hay fever develop as a reaction to allergens (allergy-causing substances) in the air, most notably to pollens in the early spring. Other examples of airborne allergens include mold spores, dust, and animal dander.
Pollen consists of the minuscule, male cells of flowering plants. Pollen from garden flowers usually doesn’t cause allergies, since this type of pollen is large and waxy and most often carried by insects. Small, light, dry pollens produced by trees, grasses, and weeds can disseminate with the wind and lead to allergic symptoms.
Your doctor can help you determine whether treatments are necessary, such as prescription or nonprescription antihistamines to control the symptoms of hay fever. Whether or not you take medication for hay fever, you can still take steps to reduce the severity of your symptoms. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) has some useful tips for those who suffer from seasonal allergies:
- Wash bed sheets weekly in hot water.
- Always bathe and wash hair before bedtime (pollen can collect on skin and hair throughout the day).
- Do not hang clothes outside to dry where they can trap pollens.
- Wear a filter mask when mowing or working outdoors.
- Avoid peak times for pollen exposure (hot, dry, windy days, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Although pollens are usually emitted in early morning, peak times for dissemination are between around 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Be aware of local pollen counts in your area (visit the National Allergy Bureau Web site).
- Keep windows and car windows closed; use air conditioning in both if possible rather than opening windows.
- Perform a thorough spring cleaning of your home, including replacing heating and A/C filters and cleaning ducts and vents.
- Check bathrooms and other damp areas in your home frequently for mold and mildew, and remove visible mold with nontoxic cleaners.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom and off of furniture, since they may carry pollen if they have been outdoors.
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