Fall Allergies and Sinusitis

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Autumn has arrived, and you don’t feel so good. You can’t stop mold,” says James Stankiewicz, MD, chairman of the department of otolaryngology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Mold can aggravate hay fever symptoms.”

HEPA air filters can be helpful, especially if your home is carpeted. One per room is best, says Christine Franzese, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. If that’s not in the cards, get one for the room where you spend most of your time — presumably your bedroom. You might also consider getting a HEPA vacuum cleaner — otherwise, vacuuming might just stir up pollen rather than remove it.

2. Wear a Mask

A surgical-style facemask isn’t going to be 100% effective at protecting you from pollen — “you’d need a full-body hazmat suit to do that,” says Franzese. But a mask can cut your exposure substantially, and is worth donning when you venture outside to garden, mow the lawn, exercise, and so on.

Look for a facemask with an “N95” rating from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). You should be able to pick one up at a drugstore or home supply store.

“I know it’s no fun to wear a mask, but it really will help you from breathing in all that pollen and mold,” says Kao. “The key is to use it properly. It should fit tightly around the mouth and nose — feel around it to make sure no air is coming in around the edges.”

3. Wash Up

Whenever you come in from outside, wash your face and hands. If you’ve been exposed to outdoor air for quite a while, shower and change into fresh clothes.

If you share your home with a furry friend that ventures outdoors, brushing and bathing it outside will help prevent pollen from being tracked inside.

4. Watch What You Eat

Because they contain proteins similar to the ones in ragweed, certain foods can exacerbate allergy shots).

Experts say the best approach may be to start treatment early and combine various therapies Whichever prevention strategies and medications you decide upon, don’t wait until the last minute to start using them.

If you had hay fever in previous years, says Kao, odds are you’ll have it again this year. Starting medications before symptoms appear can limit both their severity and duration — sometimes markedly.