Simple tips for reducing spring allergies
Spring is fast approaching and with the changing of the seasons comes an increase of pollen in the environment, which means a lot of people with allergies are going to be reaching for a box of tissues.
Allergic rhinitis (commonly known as hay fever) affects around 18% of people (children and adults) in Australia. It is caused by the nose and/or eyes coming into contact with environmental allergens, such as pollens, dust mite, moulds and animal hair.
While complete avoidance of pollen is impractical there is still a lot you can do to minimise exposure to these allergens. These range from simple measures taken around the house to changing routines. This article will focus on the simple tips for reducing pollen exposure. Other articles will focus on the treatments that usually accompany these measures.
- Track local weather reports for allergen levels forecast.
- Information about pollen counts in Australia is available at www.pollenforecast.com.au.
Protect your home
- When pollen counts are high, shut the doors and windows and use the air conditioner. Also use damp towels over any air gaps in doors and windows.
- Keep pets from bedroom areas and keep them clean. They can often bring pollen in on their fur if allowed both outside and inside.
- Mould can also add to allergy symptoms, so make sure to remove it. Common mould areas include bathrooms, kitchens and anywhere there are leaks or moisture.
- Vacuum your home often using a machine with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. These filters trap 99.97% of microscopic particles in the air.
- Use damp cloths to wipe dust up and not just spread it.
- Clutter collects dust, so minimal stuff around the house is best. Bare floors are also easier to clean.
- Regularly clean air-conditioner or ducted heating filters and get ducted heating vents and pipes professionally cleaned once a year before spring.
- Don’t line-dry clothes or sheets outside or they’ll collect pollen. Dry inside on rack or clothes dryer.
- Buy a portable HEPA filter.
- Wash bedding regularly and use dustmite-proof pillowcases and mattress protectors.
When possible avoid going outside, especially on windy days and during the early morning hours, when pollen counts are highest.
- Try to avoid going out during or after thunderstorms, particularly when pollen counts are high.
- Exercise indoors or at gym if pollen counts are high.
- Plan outdoor time wisely so as to minimise exposure to pollens.
- If travelling by car, keep windows up and use the air conditioner with re-circulated air option.
- When you do head outdoors, wear glasses or sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes. If you have to maintain the garden, a filter mask can help when you mow the lawn or work in the garden.
- Research plants less likely to trigger allergic rhinitis or asthma. Consider planting a low-allergen garden around the home.
- If you are sensitive to particular weeds or trees that are in your garden, have them removed.
- Do not picnic in parks or in the country during the pollen season.
- Try to plan your holidays out of the pollen season or holiday at the seaside.
- Rinse your eyes and irrigate your nose frequently with water.
- Carry a supply of tissues.
As soon as you arrive home – even if you’ve just been in the backyard:
- Remove outdoor shoes, and leave shoes at the door or specified area away from living or sleeping areas. Also encourage guests to do so.
- Change your clothes (preferably in the laundry and away from bedrooms) and put contaminated clothes into wash or sealable bags.
- Take a shower to rid your body of as much pollen as possible. Don’t forget your hair, just rinsing your hair will do.
- Frequently wash face and nose (nasal irrigation) with water to reduce pollen inhaled or in eyes. Saline (salt) sprays or saline flushes with neti pots are another way to do this.
- Shower before bed so as not to transfer allergens to your pillow.