updated 4/17/2008 2:49:30 PM ET 2008-04-17T18:49:30

With warmer weather comes one of Mother Nature’s cruelest jokes: the onslaught of allergy season, which sends us scurrying back indoors. Why now? It’s not only the birds and the bees getting it on come springtime. After a long hibernation, trees, flowers and grass all begin to bud, bloom and, uh, mate, sending out pollen in an effort to get busy with another plant. That potent substance is what makes us sneeze, sniffle…and long for a dousing rain.

About one in five American women has allergic rhinitis (the technical name for any allergy that affects the nose), and more of us join the ranks every year. One possible reason: Due to increasingly more immunizations and greater cleanliness, today’s adults were exposed to fewer infections as kids, making our immune system hypersensitive to allergens, explains Martha White, M.D., research director of the Institute for Asthma & Allergy in Wheaton, Maryland. Meanwhile, factories and cars are spewing more diesel pollution, which turns on the immune system and directs it to increase allergic responses.

But take heart: Experts are discovering more and better ways to fend off and treat allergies, and we’ve gathered their best science-based tips here to help you find fast and lasting relief. Soon you’ll say so long to congestion and brain fog and welcome a happy, healthy spring.

Sneeze-stifling secrets
Try these easy tips for minimizing allergy symptoms. The more you use, the better!

  • Close your windows and turn on an air conditioner or dehumidifer to keep out allergens whenever pollen counts rise. Find local allergen levels at Pollen.com.
  • Allergy symptoms worsen on high-pollution days, so stay on top of pollution levels at Weather.com.
  • Leave your shoes by the front door to avoid tracking in pollen, grass and other allergens.
  • Pollen can cling to pets’ fur. Wipe down your furry guys with a damp towel before letting them come back into the house.
  • Beach it! Pollen counts are lower near the shore, so plan a seaside getaway for peak pollen weeks.
  • Exercise at dusk. Morning dampness increases mold counts in the morning. At midday, when temps are high, plants open up and release pollen as they absorb heat.
  • When traveling, request a “pure” hotel room. Many chains have options with germ killers and air filters that clear the air of allergens every 15 minutes. Find one at www.pureroom.com/hotels.
  • Hire that teenage kid in your neighborhood to mow the lawn and bag clippings. Stay inside while he works — mowing kicks up more pollen into the air.
  • Use your clothes dryer. Hanging laundry out on the line to dry invites pollen to nestle in the fabrics.

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