For some people, spring is a magical time of blooming flowers, longer days, and warmer weather. For those with seasonal allergies, though, it's more like dark magic, with invisible pollens assaulting your nose, eyes, and face every time you dare to leave your castle (or tiny apartment, as the case may be).
Depending on where you live and what you are allergic to, pollens may start to make you want to hibernate as early as January until as late as early September. “When trees start to get leaves is when tree pollens are out,” says Jacqueline S. Eghrari-Sabet, M.D., spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI). “Grass pollen follows and continues until summer, then ragweed pollen can start as early as summer,” she tells SELF. This is also a time when mold and dust mites can thrive, so if you're also allergic to those, it can be a triple whammy.
Luckily there are remedies—both everyday habits and OTC medications—that can alleviate the sneezing, itchy, watering eyes, congestion, nasal drip, and all those other lovely allergy symptoms that turn you into a red-eyed snot monster. Try one or some of the solutions below and see what works best for you. Because it's far too nice outside to let allergies keep you cooped up in your apartment.
1. Shut the windows.
If your mom was the type to throw open every window on the first warm day to “air out” the house after winter, don't follow her lead. “The first thing we always tell patients is avoidance—avoid the thing you are allergic to,” Eghrari-Sabet says. “Opening the windows lets all the pollen in the house, and you need to make [your house] a sanctuary where pollens can't get to you.” Instead, turn on the AC.
2. Use a HEPA filter.
A HEPA filter is better than an ionic air filter, according to the ACAAI. Ionic filters tend to lack the air flow necessary to effectively filter air particles, and they produce ozone, which can be a health risk. Instead, the ACAAI recommends a HEPA room air cleaner rated with a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). Have central air? Use filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12 and change them every three months.
3. Keep your car windows closed.
Sure, you'll miss that shampoo-commercial-wind-in-your-hair effect. But you'll also miss letting pollens in.
4. Keep your shoes outside.
After running or spending other time outside, if you can, remove your sneakers and leave them to enjoy the fresh air, says Beth Corn, MD, associate professor of medicine and clinical immunology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The less you can track inside, the better.
5. Strip down.
Experts say to change your clothing after coming inside if you can. “I have patients who bike to work and then they have a change of clothing and change as soon as they get to work,” Corn says. Sure, you might end up doing a ton of laundry, but you also won't be sneezing and itching as much. Tradeoff?