Seasonal allergic rhinitis, a.k.a., hay fever, is nothing to sneeze at. This time of year, mold spores and tiny grains of pollen from native grasses and trees hitch a ride on spring’s warm breezes, traveling for hundreds of miles.

If you or someone in your family is allergic, those pesky airborne particles can kick your immune system into overdrive, bringing on annoying symptoms, such as sneezing, stuffy and runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. Your throat, ears, and the roof of your mouth can itch too.

Allergies can also trigger asthma, a chronic disease in which the lung’s tiny airways become swollen, mucousy, and constricted, making breathing difficult.

“Allergies can trigger asthma and make it worse,” says Beth Corn, M.D., an allergy and immunology specialist.

In fact, about 60-80% of adults and children 18 and under have allergic asthma — asthma brought on by allergies.

But these simple strategies can tame seasonal allergies to help everyone breathe easier.


Pinpoint what you’re allergic to. If you are having symptoms of allergies, asthma, or both (allergic asthma) — such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing — don’t guess what you may be allergic to.

See an allergist or a pulmonologist for testing and a tailored action plan, which may include allergy shots or under-the-tongue allergy drops (sublingual allergy desensitization) and over-the-counter medication to control allergy and asthma symptoms.

Reducing your exposure to an allergen is an important first step


“You have to identify what’s triggering your allergies or allergic asthma, and then go after it,” Corn says.


Bust household dust. Dust mites are a common indoor allergen, especially in winter because we tend to spend more time inside. But dust mites can also be an issue in the spring and summer because they thrive on seasonal humidity.

These microscopically tiny bugs live in household dust, which sneaks in from dirt tracked in on shoes and on airborne particles like pollen and soot that blow into your home.

Dust mites are not parasites. They won’t bite, sting, or burrow into you. The harmful allergen they create comes from their fecal pellets and body fragments they shed in household dust.

Dust mites are nearly everywhere, but the bedroom is their favorite hangout. Roughly four out of five homes in the United States have detectable levels of dust mite allergen in at least one bed, according to the American Lung Association.

To derail dust mites, use a dehumidifier if humidity is a problem and encase mattresses and pillows in a barrier cover that’s impenetrable to dust.

“The cover doesn’t have to be anything expensive. It just has to do the job,” Corn says.

Barrier covers prevent the dust-mite debris from seeping out of bedding.

“You’re not smothering the dust mites. They’re still there, but you’ll lock in the dust, which is what contains the mites you’re allergic to,” Corn says.

Get rid of carpets, rugs, and curtains too.

“They’re big dust collectors,” Corn says.


Clean up your act. Mop floors regularly. Use shades in bedrooms instead of curtains and periodically wash down shades with a damp cloth. Also, wash sheets and towels in hot water to kill any lingering dust mites.


Avoid outdoor chores. If you’re allergic to grasses, let someone who isn’t allergic cut the lawn. Mowing kicks up mold and pollen.

If you can’t get out of lawn duty, don a surgical face mask (available at local pharmacies) to minimize your chances of inhaling outdoor allergens.


Close your windows at night and turn on the air conditioner when the weather heats up. AC not only cools the air, but cleans it too. Keep car windows closed when you’re driving as well.


Don’t hang towels, sheets, or clothes outside to dry. They’re pollen and mold magnets, especially on windy days.


Wash up. Change your clothes, take a shower, and wash your hair after being outside. Pollen can cling to hair, skin, and clothes.


“These little tricks can really minimize your exposure to allergens and, in turn, help control your allergies and allergic asthma,” Corn says.



Are You a Candidate for Allergy Drops?


For most allergies, the first line of defense is avoidance. But dodging allergens isn’t always possible or practical. In that case, regular allergy shots, which contain small amounts of an allergen, may also be a treatment option.

But now, you have another alternative: sublingual immunotherapy, known as allergy drops. They’re even more convenient than allergy shots because you don’t have to visit the allergist regularly. You take the drops yourself — at home.

Although allergy drops haven’t yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (they’re considered off-label in the U.S.), allergy drops have been shown to be effective for treating allergies.

In 1998, the World Health Organization concluded that allergy drops are an effective alternative to traditional allergy treatments. Like allergy shots, allergy drops treat the cause of your allergies, not just the symptoms, by desensitizing your body to allergens.

Allergy drops are custom made based on your allergic profile. After your doctor determines what you’re allergic to, a serum is formulated. Allergy drops contain small amounts of an allergen.

Each day, you’ll place a specific number of drops under your tongue. Like allergy shots, sublingual drops work by gradually building up your body’s tolerance to an allergen so you’re no longer allergic to it.

Using advanced targeted protocols, sublingual drops can address pet, seasonal pollen, dust, mold, food, and formalin (formaldehyde) allergies. Children and adults who can’t tolerate needles or injections may find the most relief.

To find an allergist who offers sublingual immunotherapy, visit the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology’s website at

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