As soon as the snow begins to melt, you start to have flashbacks of runny noses, uncontrollable sneezes, and itchy, watery eyes. Just the thought of dealing with spring allergy symptoms again is already sucking up your energy—and the worst of the blow hasn’t even hit yet.
Understandably, your first reaction may be to block those allergy-ridden thoughts from your head and enjoy the cool, pollen-free air while it lasts. But thinking about spring allergies before the season kicks in is actually essential to fighting your allergy symptoms.
Clifford Bassett, MD, an allergist at NYU Langone Health and author of the book The New Allergy Solution, shares his best tips to arm yourself for spring allergy season, so you can fight symptoms before they start.
1. Cover your hair. Don’t let springtime outdoor fun be ruined with a bout of allergy-induced fatigue and sneezes. Pollen love to latch onto your hair (especially hair that’s styled with gel), so before you head out, hide your hair. “If you’re out in the park during a high pollen [time], or you’re at a baseball game and you know you’re exposed, make sure you’re wearing a hat or something to cover up your hair,” says Dr. Bassett.
If pollen accumulates on your hair throughout the day, it can transfer to your pillow at night, which you’ll breathe in while you sleep. This helps explain the red, watery eyes or a runny nose you wake up with in the morning.
2. Shower at night. It’s also a good idea to shed your polled-ridden clothes and hop in the shower. “[Showering] does reduce the amount of pollen that your eyes and nose see, and that’s the first step in trying to prevent and reduce allergic reactions,” says Dr. Bassett.
3. Pamper your pooch. Your pets can be pollen magnets too, especially if they spend time outdoors during allergy season. “If you have a pet, wipe the paws [and] wipe the fur with a damp cloth. These things can mitigate and try to reduce the amount of pollen transfer into your home,” says Dr. Bassett.
4. Gear up when you garden. Allergy symptoms can make gardening really unpleasant for some people, but a few smart steps can make it more tolerable and minimize allergy symptoms. “Many of my patients are allergy-savvy gardeners. That means they’re wearing gloves [and] they’re wearing pollen masks,” says Dr. Bassett. Wear a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask (available at home improvement stores) when you do outdoor chores, especially if you’re exposed to fresh cut grass after mowing the lawn.
5. Keep windows closed. To avoid sneaky home invaders, keep your home and office windows and doors shut during allergy season. “Use your air conditioner, and don’t use any type of fans that suck pollen indoors,” says Dr. Bassett.
6. Adjust your laundry routine. When doing the laundry, use a hot temperature setting for sheets and linens to kill indoor allergens, such as house dust mites, says Dr. Bassett. “If you have a fragrance allergy, or you’re sensitive, [using] a fragrance-free detergent and fragrance-free fabric softener may be helpful,” he says.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating. When drying clothes, hang laundry indoors or use an electric dryer. Just like pollen can latch onto the clothes you’re wearing, it can also hold on to the laundry that you dry outside.
7. Allergy-proof your car. During the pollen season, keep your windows up to keep allergens out, and use the air conditioner to keep the air cool and clean (and avoid using the air recirculation button). When you have your vehicle serviced, be sure to have the pollen filter replaced every year, says Dr. Bassett. “It’s an important, low-cost measure, and it will help to filter the pollen while you’re in your car.”
If you’re still fresh on this allergy-fighting kick, check out these stubborn allergy myths everyone needs to stop believing.