It snowed while I was at work the other day. That's what it looked like, at least. When I got to my car, it was covered with a film of pollen that had fallen from the trees in the parking lot. My two immediate thoughts: 1) I should have listened to my dad and never bought a black car; 2) It's time to refill my daughter's allergy prescription.
This year's allergy season may be the worst on record, say researchers, who add that allergy seasons in general are getting longer and more intense. But there is good news: Over-the-counter and prescription meds aren’t the only solutions for your symptoms. In fact, some of the very things that you’d never even consider doing (an afternoon run outside, anyone?) are some of the remedies that research suggests work best. Here are 10 surprising ways to stay sneeze-free this spring and summer.
The relief: Go outside between 2 and 3 p.m. Why it works: Pollen takes a siesta in the afternoon, says Haig Tcheurekdjian, M.D., associate clinical professor at Case Western Reserve University. “Pollen is released from grass in the morning, and as the day heats up, it rises high enough into the air where you won’t have any contact with it,” he says.
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The relief: A run. After allergy sufferers ran for 30 minutes, their symptoms all decreased by more than 70 percent, according to new research from Thailand. Why it works: Cardio exercise may calm inflammatory proteins in the nasal passages, researchers say.
The relief: Make the most of rainy days. Why it works: Right after it rains, pollen is cleared from the air, so it’s a good time to be outside, says Dr. Tcheurekdjian.
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The relief: Turn on the A.C. Why it works: A window air conditioning unit works like an air filter, decreasing the amount of pollen indoors, says Dr. Tcheurekdjian. Crank it up if you’re working out indoors or for a few minutes every day to clear the air.
The relief: Wash your sheets once a week at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Why it works: If dust mites have you sneezing and sniffling, know their weakness: heat. Washing your bed sheets in hot water will kill them.
The relief: Freeze your favorite pillow. Why it works: Since you’re probably not going to throw a pillow in the washer and dryer—freeze it, says Dr. Jonathan Horbal, D.O., fellow of allergy immunology at University Hospitals in Cleveland. A 12-hour dip in the freezer every 1 to 2 weeks kills the mites—and doing it regularly keeps them from coming back, he adds.
The relief: Cut down on dairy for a few days. Why it works: It’s been suggested that up to 70 percent of people can’t tolerate dairy because they’re missing the enzyme lactase, says Steven Lamm, M.D., author of No Guts, No Glory. When you have a hard time with dairy, your immune system can go into overdrive, responding worse to relatively innocuous things like pollen.
The relief: Hop in a hot shower. Why it works: Humid, moist air will reach your sinuses and slowly clear your nose, offering relief, says William Schaffner, M.D., infectious disease specialist and chair of the department of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University.
The relief: Ditch old books for an iPad. Why it works: If mold has you sneezing and sniffling, old books could be to blame, says Dr. Horbal. Keep them out of your bedroom to save your sleep.
The relief: Breathe through your nose, not your mouth. Why it works: Your nose filters incoming air, helping keep allergens out.
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Additional writing by Cassie Shortsleeve. Additional research by Julie Stewart