Being prepared is the key to effective allergy control. If you have seasonal allergies, commonly known as hay fever, ask your pharmacist or doctor if you should take an allergy medication before the peak season hits. Some people may find it useful to take an allergy medication only on the days they know they will be outdoors – for example, before a morning trimming the roses in the garden, an afternoon hiking in the mountains, or an evening playing golf.
Another way to be prepared is to arm yourself with knowledge. Before venturing outside, check the pollen count for the day. As a rule of thumb, pollen counts are highest early in the morning – between 5 am and 10 am. Pollen counts are usually lower in the afternoon and after a heavy rain. Different areas of Canada also have different pollen counts; make sure you check your local forecast.
If you're a gardener, know your flowers. Some flowers rely on insects to carry pollen from one plant to another, while other flowers spread their pollen in the wind, causing more pollen to be released into the air and making allergy symptoms worse. If you have allergies, it may be wise to landscape your garden with flowers and plants that spread their pollen by insects rather than wind. And don't forget about the lawn: if possible, delegate the task of cutting the lawn. Some grasses are more likely to cause allergy symptoms. These include Bermuda, Kentucky bluegrass, and rye.
Practical tips to reduce allergy symptoms for gardeners include the following:
- Wear gloves and a mask when you are working in the garden and don't go out if it's a windy day. Try not to touch your face or nose.
- Take a shower and wash your clothes when you go back indoors. This gets rid of excess pollen.
Hikers should consider visiting their doctors to pinpoint what causes their allergies, as this can give them a better idea of when and where to venture out. The results of skin testing can tell people the exact type of tree, grass, ragweed, or mold to which they are allergic so that they can pick a hiking area that is free of these substances. If possible, hikers should choose hiking paths and campsites that are above the tree line to minimize their pollen exposure. Remember that rocky trails are sure to have less pollen than heavily forested trails.
Golfers can also take steps to minimize their allergy symptoms. Call your golf club the day ahead to find out if they will be grooming the lawn. Grass-cutting and lawn maintenance can result in a high pollen count. Try and schedule your golf day in cool weather that isn't windy.
For some people, medications and avoidance techniques don't work. They may need to take medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, or corticosteroid nose sprays or, if those don't work, talk to your doctor to see if allergy shots might help. Allergy shots are a long-term commitment with the eventual goal of desensitizing people to the substances to which they are allergic. If you are having difficulty controlling your allergy symptoms, consider seeing your doctor.
Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new medication.
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