Your nose is swollen and congested, your eyes itch and you feel exhausted: if you’ve had symptoms like these for more than seven days, chances are it’s not a cold virus -- it’s allergies.
You can thank the pollen vortex.
This year’s pollen count is expected to be higher than usual because of the long, snowy winter -- all of the plants that remained dormant during the deep freeze will be blooming at the same time.
But if you’re one of the millions suffering from seasonal allergies, take heart: there are things you can do to reduce your symptoms. Below, Dr. Rachel Szekley, an allergy specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, offers tips for combating the sneezing, sniffling misery that is allergy season.
1. Close the windows and run the air conditioning, both in your house and in your car: it filters out pollen, creating a "safe zone," Szekley said.
2. When you come in from the outside, take a shower, change your clothes and consider using a neti pot to rinse your sinuses. It’s also recommended that you shampoo your hair so that the pollen doesn’t end up on your pillow at night.
3. If you exercise outside, try to do it later in the day, when pollen counts are lower; they are highest in the morning.
4. If you wear glasses, be sure to wipe them off on a regular basis -- they can collect pollen too.
5. Pets also get allergies and there are veterinarians who specialize in treating their symptoms, Szekley said. In addition, keep in mind pets can bring in allergens from outside. To help your pets (and yourself) try wiping them down with allergy wipes.
6. If you continue to suffer from allergies, talk to your doctor about which antihistamine might be best for you -- there are several options available, including two new medications recently approved by the FDA: tablets Oralair and Grastek. Both contain grass allergens extracts meant to boost the body’s immune response and decrease allergen sensitivity.
7. If antihistamines aren't doing the trick, allergy shots can be an effective alternative. By getting shots regularly some people are able to eliminate the need for allergy medication altogether.
Have any tips of your own? Sound off in the comment section.