3 habits that make seasonal allergies worse

After months of unpredictable weather, spring is *finally* beginning to emerge. But when you suffer from seasonal allergies, the changing seasons don’t necessarily feel like a time to celebrate. Unlike some of your (lucky, dry-nosed) friends, you can’t just head to the park or sidewalk cafe—you need to first run to the drugstore.

According to board-certified allergist Neeta Ogden, MD, an allergic reaction is basically the body fighting off what it considers dangerous; those sneezes and watering eyes are the body’s immune response to being exposed to an allergen it has deemed a foreign invader. Everything from environmental factors to lifestyle habits can impact the severity of your symptoms, Dr. Ogden says.

Here’s what to watch out for.

Keep scrolling to learn what could be exacerbating your allergies.

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Photo: Stocksy/Bonnin Studio

1. Hiding inside

While it may seem like the great indoors would be the perfect place to take cover from pollen and other outdoor allergens, there are pesky allergy-inducing factors lurking inside that you need to be aware of, too. “Things like wall-to-wall carpet or fabrics like drapes can harbor allergens like dust mites and dander for years and create chronic low-lying symptoms or exacerbate existing ones,” Dr. Ogden explains. “Similarly, hidden moisture in the home like mold can do the same.”

Dr. Ogden recommends switching out drapes for blinds and removing carpet. And while you can’t exactly reno your office, she says moving to a different area in your workplace *may* help.

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Your outdoor activities can affect allergies
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2. Taking your workout outdoors

I don’t know about you, but when spring arrives, I’m thrilled to be able to run outside again. Unfortunately, outdoor activities like running, golfing, and gardening are probably contributing to your allergy symptoms. Bummer. “It’s really all about exposure,” says Dr. Ogden, adding that the allergy-prone should take caution outside during peak pollen season.

If you’d rather not abandon your outdoor pursuits (how I’ve missed you, vitamin D!), she advocates using barriers like masks, gloves, or even wrap-around sunglasses to protect you from direct exposure to the allergen. “Always wash your hands after exposure and, if possible, take a shower, making sure to wash your hair and rinse and gently wipe eyes and lids,” Dr. Ogden says. And if symptoms persist, you either need allergy medication or a visit to an allergist for allergy shots.

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Your allergy medication impacts allergy symptoms
Photo: Stocksy/Harald Walker

3. Waiting too long to pop your meds

It may be tempting to hold off on taking medication until you absolutely need to, but Dr. Ogden cautions against this. “Not taking medications early enough or waiting until symptoms are very bad—or not taking them at all—can create a strong vicious cycle that can be hard to control.”

Compounded by environmental factors outside of your control, like cigarette smoke or a coworker’s perfume (which can further inflame your respiratory passages), waiting too long to treat your allergy symptoms can make it incredibly difficult to gain control over them. And no one wants to lug a tissue box around all spring. (It’ll hardly fit in your fanny pack.)

A vaccine for seasonal allergies could be on the horizon—here’s what you need to know. And did you know it’s totally possible to develop allergies as an adult?