10 Ways to Better Tame Your Spring Allergies


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Sneezing, wheezing, and otherwise feeling like hell: Allergies are a special kind of everyday torture. Although we don’t have a cure for your food or environmental allergies, we do have some proven tips to help you suffer less and minimize reactions. Here are 10 of them for people who suffer from allergies.

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Is it a cold or is it your allergies? It’s not always easy to tell the difference, but examine your symptoms so you can properly treat whatever you have. Itchy eyes and throat are more associated with allergies, and even your snot can indicate whether you’re having an allergic reaction or have caught a cold. Once you know what you have, you can decide if you should take cold or allergy medicine (although both Benadryl and Nyquil can cure you temporarily by knocking you out).

Illustration for article titled 10 Ways to Better Tame Your Spring Allergies
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Allergic symptoms—wheezing, itchiness, rashes, sinus problems, and more—can be so severe that you’ll try anything to get rid of them. Unfortunately, the word “hypoallergenic” doesn’t always mean what we think it means—companies can use the term for whatever they want it to mean. Buying local honey won’t help your allergies either, or build up your tolerance to pollen. You’re still probably going to be exposed to a different, wind-carried pollen. If a product says it’s allergen-free, you should still look at the ingredients and investigate.

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You’ll have a routine to keep your allergies under control when you’re at home—knowing which restaurants to eat at or avoid, for example—but traveling is another story. Before you get on an airplane, find out the airline’s food allergy policies (or pack your own food). You might also seek out allergy-friendly lodging and, of course, make sure you have any medication you might need with you. Here’s our guide to eating well and managing your food allergies when you’re traveling.

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If your allergies are triggered by seasonal changes, such as more exposure to tree pollen in the spring or spending more time with mold and dust mites in the winter, change with the seasons. Basically, you want to reduce your exposure to the allergens when they’re at their peak and remove them from your environment as much as possible.

Go outdoors after 10 a.m., for example. Also, change your clothes and shoes when you walk through the door so you don’t bring allergens into the house. Dust early in the day to give dust time to settle before you settle down for the evening. Shower at night to get rid of the pollen you’ve picked up all day, so you’re not breathing it in all night long.

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The things you come into contact every day are the ones most likely to trigger allergies. That means cleaning everyday things like your clothes and bedsheets. Add baking soda or vinegar to the washing machine to get rid of excess detergent residue. Invest in dust mite covers for your bed and pillows. Keep pets out of bedrooms (that one’s hard, I know) and replace carpets with hardwood floors, if possible.

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You generally know which foods to avoid when you have a food allergy, but sometimes you’re not sure, and that’s where technology comes in. Plenty of apps can help you manage your allergies to food and outdoor conditions. You can find a good list of them here. They can warn you when the weather is particularly bad for your allergies, or that a dish might contain an ingredient you’re allergic to.

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Even with restrictive food allergies, you can still enjoy a variety of foods. My daughter’s allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and soy, for example, so we’ve learned to look for vegan and nut-free desserts or use egg substitutes when baking, such as applesauce and even chickpea liquid. Learn to cook for difficult dietary restrictions and general guidelines for substituting ingredients. If you’re cooking for “the most difficult dinner guest ever,” have some recipes anyone can eat in your arsenal.

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One of the worst parts of having allergies is having a reaction and not knowing what caused it. You could be allergic to the ingredients in commercial deodorants, or wine, beer, or any other number of things you people use regularly. Watch your diet if you have mysterious migraines, and if you suspect allergies, start reading food labels. Although the FDA requires food manufacturers to declare if a product has a major food allergen (the big eight are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans), you might be allergic to something rarer.

It’s also wise to know the other names associated with your allergy. If a food lists casein or whey, for example, or even artificial butter flavor, you should avoid it if you have milk allergies. See Food Allergy Research & Education for more info.

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The easiest way to communicate your allergies to others is with a picture. Allergy cards are especially useful when traveling and even when dining out at restaurants locally. Create your own allergy card, or find a site online to generate a language-specific version. You can also get bracelets and stickers to warn teachers and caretakers of your kids’ allergies.

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Most important: Know your allergies, especially the worst ones. If you haven’t yet, consider booking an appointment with an allergist, as they’ll be able to help you pinpoint the sources of your allergies and come up with a plan for addressing them. A food elimination diet can also help you narrow down what’s making you sick.

To look out for possible allergies when feeding a baby, use the 4-day wait rule (introduce only one new ingredient for four days), and keep a journal so you can pinpoint allergy triggers, whether it’s food or something in the environment.

And, again, get tested by an allergist if your symptoms are really bothering you. Medication might not be necessary (maybe they’ll just recommend a neti pot for seasonal allergies), but a doctor can help you live much, much better.

This story was originally published in February 2016 and was updated on May 3, 2021 as a slideshow with new photos and information.