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18 Things You Must Do to Avoid Fall Allergy Flare-Ups

These simple steps can help keep your seasonal allergies at bay during the fall.

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Get a head start on your meds

Don’t wait until an allergy attack takes hold—just as you might take zinc at the first sign of a common cold (these are the signs one might be on the way!), you should apply the same approach to allergy season. “I recommend starting allergy medications one to two weeks before the season starts. That way you already have control of your potential symptoms before things get really bad,” says Meritt Fajt, MD, an allergist-immunologist at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania. If you’re particularly sensitive to the ragweed pollen of fall, start your meds at the end of August.

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Strip after being outdoors

“Change your clothing as soon as you come inside. This ensures you don’t continue to be exposed to any outdoor allergens and you don’t track it around the house,” says Dr. Fajt. Even better: Hop in the shower to quickly rinse any pollen from your body and hair.

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Steer clear of homeopathic allergy treatments

“There are plant-based antihistamines available but they’re not particularly effective, and you can never tell what you’re getting with these unregulated products, so buyer beware. Traditional antihistamines are safe and work just fine,” says Richard Lavi, MD, of the Allergy Asthma & Sinus Relief Center in Twinsburg, Ohio. Here’s everything you need to know before trying a neti pot.

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Get a flu shot

Allergies can be particularly difficult for people with asthma since they irritate already sensitive airways, and the same is true for the flu. In fact, both adults and children with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia after catching the flu than those without, warns the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The flu vaccine reduces your chance of getting influenza by 40 to 60 percent. Be sure to avoid these mistakes that can make your flu shot less effective.

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Dry clothing in a dryer, not outside

Letting clothes air dry outside might leave them smelling naturally fresh, but ditch the clothespins and clothesline if you suffer from allergies—they will attract pollen, which may trigger an allergy attack even if you’re inside.

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Keep an eye on pollen counts

The weather channel or a smartphone weather app can help you track fluctuating pollen levels. If it says the pollen count is moderate to high, take extra precautions and try to limit your time outside, says Dr. Fajt. Find out the weird things allergists do to control their own allergies.

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Shut the windows at night

A cool fall breeze might sound like the ideal way to nod off at night, but sleeping with a window open could leave you with a serious allergy flare-up upon waking. “Pollen can blow in when you’re sleeping, and if leaves get rained on, there could also be mold,” says Dr. Fajt. If you forget to close one, wipe off nearby surfaces the next morning to get rid of anything that might have entered overnight. Here are other sneaky ways your house may make you sick.

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Invest in eye drops

Despite your careful precautions, allergy flare-ups can still take hold. If your eyes are itchy and red, eye drops are a quick way to relieve some of that discomfort. “A good trick is to keep them in the refrigerator—that way, they don’t sting and burn your already irritated eyes when they go in,” says Dr. Lavi.

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Use a sinus rinse

“Sinus rinses are really helpful, and I tell my patients to do one at night before bed,” says Sandra Hong, MD, an allergist-immunologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “It’s like giving your sinuses a bath because it eliminates any pollen that may be stuck in your nasal passages and rinses out any mucus so you feel less clogged.” You can also do one immediately after being outside to prevent pollen from sticking around.

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Ban pets from your bed

Dogs and cats can easily pick up pollen on their fur coats after being outside and transfer it to you during a snuggle session. “Wipe them down, if you can, and don’t let them sleep with you because it’ll almost surely trigger something,” says Dr. Hong. Don’t make these other sleeping mistakes.

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Wash your hands regularly

You’ll want to steer clear of cold and flu viruses, which could make your asthma and allergy symptoms even worse. Wash your hands for the CDC-recommended 20 seconds after spending time outside, using the bathroom, or being in public. These are the five most common hand-washing mistakes that might be making you sick.

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Avoid high-pollen areas

Stay away from areas that may trigger a flare-up, such as a field of ragweed or places with an abundance of fallen leaves. “If you must be around allergy triggers, remove yourself from the situation as soon as you start feeling symptoms,” says Dr. Fajt. Learn all the weird things you can be allergic to.

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Maintain your regimen, even if you’re not getting flare-ups

“Keep taking your allergy medicine until fall officially ends. My patients are often great at the beginning of the season, but then they feel good so they stop taking their meds and their symptoms come back,” says Dr. Fajt.

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Stay on top of asthma medication

If you suffer from asthma and allergies, autumn is not the time to lapse on your asthma medication. “For anyone with asthma who’s allergy-induced, I recommend they take their asthma medication regularly,” says Dr. Fajt. Learn 12 surprising asthma triggers.

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Wear sunglasses outside

“It’s a simple trick, but sunglasses can be really helpful because they protect from getting pollen directly in the eyes,” says Dr. Hong. Here’s how to find the best sunglasses for your face shape.

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Replace your furnace filter

Before you crank up the heat, replace the filter on your furnace (you should do this anyway every three to six months). Look for one with a MERV 11 or 12 disposable high efficiency media filter. (These are the 10 home maintenance tasks you’ll regret if you forget.) Leave the fan on to create a “whole house” air filtration system to remove tiny airborne particles that can trigger allergies and asthma.

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Control your indoor allergies

“If you have indoor allergies to things like dust, pet dander, or mold, controlling them means your seasonal ones won’t be nearly as bad,” says Dr. Hong.

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See an allergist

If your allergies are particularly severe and preventative measures fail, consider making an appointment with an allergist; they can run tests to pinpoint what’s causing your allergy and asthma symptoms, then determine the right treatment. “For people whose symptoms aren’t getting better, allergy shots or immunotherapy may be a helpful long-term solution,” says Dr. Fajt. To find an allergist and learn more about allergies and asthma, visit allergyandasthmarelief.org. Get more allergy-relief tips from allergy doctors.