Now that hay fever season has hit, your first instinct might be to pop a Claritin. It's not a bad one: "If you have allergies, one of the best things you can do is start medications early, even before your symptoms kick in," says Neeta Ogden, MD, an allergist in New York City.
But, she adds, it's also crucial to make tweaks to your daily routine to avoid whatever sparks your symptoms. Read on for easy, effective ways to keep sniffles at bay 24/7.
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Keep your windows shut
Tree and grass pollenthe main causes of spring allergiescan blow into your house if you open your windows even a crack, "especially during the early morning hours, when tree pollen counts are typically the highest," says Vincent Tubiolo, MD, an allergy, asthma and immunology specialist in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Stuffy inside? Run the air conditioning, but change your filters before each season to remove pollen, dust and mold. If you're really suffering, invest in an air purifier with a HEPA filter to help suck up lingering allergens.
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Check the pollen count
Visit weather.com, watch your local morning news or download the pollen.com app for your phone.
If the count is high that day, try to stay indoors as much as possible, Dr. Ogden advises.
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Sunglasses physically block airborne allergens from blowing intoand irritating your eyes, especially on windy days.
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Snack on yogurt
People who consumed a yogurt drink containing the probiotic Lactobacillus casei once a day for five months had lower levels of an antibody that produces allergy symptoms, according to a study from the Institute of Food Research in the United Kingdom. Researchers are now looking into whether that might actually lessen the severity of those symptoms.
In the meantime, it couldn't hurt to take probiotic supplements or eat yogurt regularly. Check the label to see if a product contains L. casei.
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Take a breather
Research shows that stress can aggravate allergic reactions, even a full day after an anxiety-producing event. That might be because as stress hormones in your body rise, so do levels of cytokinesproteins we produce as part of the allergic response, according to research from Ohio State University.
To keep an even keel during allergy season, soothe yourself by breathing deeply, listening to tunes you love or working out.
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Limit outdoor runs to the afternoon
If you prefer to run or walk outdoors, do so in the afternoon, when pollen counts are lower, Dr. Tubiolo advises. But if your allergies are really bad, you're better off sticking with the gym or at-home workouts.
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Kick off your shoes at home
This will prevent you from tracking pollen all over the house. Better yet, strip off your clothes and hop in the shower so pollen doesn't linger on your hair and body. Run the bathroom fan to keep humidity levels down and prevent mold sporesanother allergy triggerfrom taking hold.
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Participants in a German study who consumed the highest amount of a type of omega-3 fatty acid called EPA (found in fatty fish, like salmon) had a lower risk of developing hay fever. This substance might quash allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation in the body, Dr. Ogden says.
Don't eat fish regularly? Taking an omega-3 supplement with EPA can also help, she says.
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Keep Fido and Kitty off your bed
Long-haired pets that spend time outside can drag pollen back in with them, Dr. Ogden says.
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Pop a 24-hour allergy pill before bed
That's rightbefore bed. Some antihistamines can make you drowsy. Plus, many of them take an hour or two to kick in, Dr. Tubiolo explains. That means they'll start working while you're asleep and you'll be symptom-free when you step out the door.