Ever make it through the snowy winter, only to be bogged down by sniffling, sinus infections, and itchy eyes?
It’s common—seasonal allergies, also called allergic rhinitis or hay fever, affect up to 50 million people in the U.S. And when the season strikes, the sick days start flowing: In one large study, 55 percent of workers reported calling in sick because of allergies . Sorry boss!
Pollen is the most common season-related allergen, while dust, mold, and good ol’ Fluffy can bug us indoors any time of year . But here’s a fun fact: These allergens are usually harmless—it’s our immune systems that are to blame, mistaking them for dangerousintruders. In defense, our bodies release histamine, which dilates blood vessels and causes eyes to water, skin to itch, and sinuses to congest. (Yeah, we’re pissed too.) But the reason not everyone deals well with the springtime blues? Reacting to allergies also depends on genetic makeup .
Most scientists are still baffled as to why we have allergies. But one study did find a molecule in chickens that acts as a fossilized version of the molecule that causes humans to react today . This shows that the evolution of allergic reactions began nearly 160 million years ago! And these reactions isn’t just a quick battle. Most people experience the sneezing and itching almost immediately after exposure, but congestion and fatigue can kick in up to eight hours later (surprise!) . And we can’t just snooze off the symptoms—doctors have found that allergies also hinder our quality of sleep .
Your Action Plan
Climate change—and the subsequent higher temps—leads topremature pollen release, which means our immune system has jump-started its action plan to react against the allergens. Luckily, we can have our own action plan to battle back:
1. Keep it cool.
Shut the windows and turn up the air-conditioning to keep out pollen . Avoid using a fan that can whirl around dust and pet hair too!
2. Avoid the wind.
3. Trim the grass.
4. Slide on the shades.
We weren’t kidding when we said wear shades year-round. The eye-protection ain’t just for the sun though—it’ll also help keep pollen out of your eyes .
5. Hit the showers.
Remember to shower before snoozin’ to rinse off any allergens that may be stuck to the skin and hair.
6. Clear those sinuses.
Try clearing up those nasal passages with a little salt water. Also called nasal irrigation (lovely), the liquid will flow through the nasal cavity and wash out allergens and mucus . Some expertsrecommend a neti pot for easy pouring, yet others warn of its dangers. Just make sure to speak with a doctor first before using.
7. Eat smart.
Some foods may even help fight spring allergies. Trying filling that diet with nuts, apples, fish, red grapes, and tomatoes. Can’t hurt to try!