7 surprising ways to overcome allergy triggers

Between pollen, dust mites and pet dander, allergy sufferers can take a beating when warm weather makes its appearance. These trigger-thwarting tips can help

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dandelion woman allergies

Overcome your allergies

For almost one quarter of Canadians, the arrival of spring brings with it a major downer: allergies. Beyond the fact that they're getting worse and affecting more people-reactions to common airborne triggers like ragweed and pollen have increased in the past few decades-because of pollution and global warming, the allergen season is getting longer, too. "The duration was defined in the past with hay fever starting in the spring, grass in the summer and ragweed in the fall," says Dr. Paul Keith, allergist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and member of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. "Because the seasons have been starting earlier and lasting longer, this means more exposure and extended reactions for many people," he says.

But the news isn't all bad. Experts agree that doing some preventative legwork can go a long way toward keeping reactions minimized. With that in mind, here's how to get a handle on your triggers before they send you sniffling and sneezing for the hills.

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1. Stay inside

When pollen counts are high, do yourself a favour and minimize exposure as much as possible, says Dr. Keith. Closing your windows, turning on your air conditioning (making sure it has a clean filter so you're not pumping pollen around the house), and staying inside as much as you can is a good preventative measure, as is planning your time outside: Hot, dry days often mean high pollen counts, while grey or rainy days tend to have lower levels. (Visit www.theweathernetwork.com for a daily, updated pollen report.)

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2. Use a filter

We get it: Allergic or not, sometimes you want a warm summer breeze blowing through your house. For times like these, add a specialized filter to your window, which lets air in and keeps pollen out. (You can find similar options for your car windows, too.)

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3. Cleanse gently

A study done in 2007 found that scrubbing skin with harsh soaps can damage it, stripping away protective cells, which can result in easier penetration of allergens. Another reason to ease up when washing: The allergy-prone set are more likely to suffer from eczema, which is synonymous with itchy, dry, red skin, though Dr. Keith says experts aren't yet sure why this happens.

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4. Change your clothes

Performing a wardrobe change after you've been outside for extended periods of time is a good way to avoid the spread of allergens throughout your home. Keep the polluted clothes in a contained area until they're washed, and when you do head for the laundry room, use the hot water cycle to eliminate pollen, dust or ragweed residue.

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sleeping woman

5. Cover up your bedding

Dust mites love dark, warm environments, and one of their favourite spots to play house is in pillows and mattresses. To minimize their prevalence, encase both sleep aids with zippered, allergen-proof covers. "People tend to think if they replace their pillows every year that they're less exposed, but that doesn't address the real issue," says Dr. Keith. "Using a breathable cover is the only way to prevent the microscopic mites from reaching your skin while you sleep."

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6. Groom Fido more often

Controlling the amount of pet dander your cat or dog harbours comes down to baths, and lots of them. Assuming your pet will agree to regular tub sessions, make a habit of lathering them up once a week, and do what you can to keep them out of your bedroom. "We spend eight hours a day in bed-the last thing you want is to have allergens surrounding you during what should be your most restful part of the day," says Dr. Keith.

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7. Run a dehumidifier

Balmy, humid weather all but rolls out the welcome mat for mold and dust, so look to a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from your abode. Aim to keep indoor humidity levels between 25 to 50 percent.

Related:
10 ways to sleep better during allergy season
Allergies: Everything you need to know
What causes spring allergies?