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Allergy survival guide: 10 tips from a top doctor

Millions of people are suffering through one of the worst allergy seasons in years. Michael Krause

There have been plenty of alarming reports this spring about the "pollen tsunami" sweeping America, and millions of people are suffering through one of the worst allergy seasons in memory.

"It's really bad," Dr. Neeta Ogden, an allergy specialist and spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, told CBS News. "There are people with new symptoms for the first time."

Over-the-counter or prescription allergy medications can help with the symptoms, but for many people they're just not enough. "I think that because it's such a bad pollen season, I'm seeing a lot of people who are maxed out on the meds," Ogden said.

She offered some practical advice to reduce the sniffling, sneezing and wheezing that can make springtime so miserable.

Click through for the allergy doctor's top 10 tips...

Get out of those clothes

Take off your clothes when you get home. www.fotografikum.com

The first thing to do when you get home? Take off the clothes you've worn outside all day. Otherwise, Ogden warns, you'll be tracking pollen around the house and prolonging your exposure.

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Shower

Shower and wash your hair to get rid of pollen. istockphoto

Ogden recommends taking a shower and washing your hair as soon as you get home. You definitely don't want to go to bed covered in pollen. "If you put your head on your pillow and sleep all night, that's what's going to trigger a reaction," she said.

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Wipes or saline wash

Wash eyes and nose with saline wash or baby wipes. istockphoto

A shower alone may not be enough. Ogden also recommends using a saline wash to rinse the eyes and nose before bed. "Some of my patients use eyelid wipes, like baby wipes," she says. "The whole idea is to reduce pollen exposure."

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HEPA air purifier

An air purifier with a HEPA filter can reduce allergens. istockphoto

An air purifier can help reduce allergens in your home. "I tell people to invest in an air purifier. A small one can be good, but they have to be HEPA," Ogden said. HEPA, or High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance filters, remove 99 percent of airborne particles such as pollen and other irritants. "Maybe even get one for your desk at work," Ogden suggests.

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Stay hydrated

You need water and electrolytes to stay hydrated. istockphoto

Be sure you're drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated during allergy season. "Studies have shown that when you're dehydrated your body produces higher histamine levels and that drives allergies," Ogden said. "When you get dehydrated you could run risk of making your symptoms worse." And it can be a vicious cycle, because the decongestants many people take for allergies can dry you out.

Drinking plenty of water is essential, but Ogden says you need to replenish electrolytes, too. She suggests keeping packets of a hydration powder like DripDrop handy to add to your water for an extra boost of electrolytes.

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Vitamins & supplements

Vitamin D and Omega 3 may help allergy sufferers. CBS News

There's growing evidence that vitamins and minerals can have an impact on allergies. Ogden says vitamin D and Omega 3, found in fish oil, may help.

"A number of studies have shown that when they're incorporated into the diet, there's a decrease in allergy and asthma symptoms," she said. "I have had patients say, 'Oh, I went back on my vitamin D and my allergies improved.'"

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Hose down the dog

Wash pollen off the dog before letting him back in the house. istockphoto

Man's best friend can be your worst enemy when it comes to allergies. Dogs can track pollen all over the house.

"Dogs, especially with lots of fur, long hair, are going to need to be hosed off or bathed" whenever they've been playing outside, Ogden said. Wear a mask and gloves while bathing the dog, or better yet, "if there's someone at home who doesn't have allergies -- make them do it."

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Dress for protection

A hat and sunglasses can help keep pollen out of your face. istockphoto

You can help shield yourself from pollen exposure by wearing a hat and sunglasses outdoors. Ogden recommends "big sunglasses -- it's just about protecting your face -- and a hat to keep pollen out of your hair and off your face."

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Use Vaseline to "trap" pollen

A thin layer of petroleum jelly can help stop pollen from irritating your nose. Michael Malyugin

Ogden suggests applying a thin coat of Aquaphor or Vaseline around the rim of your nostrils as a way to "trap" pollen and keep it from entering the mucous membranes of the nose, where it can cause irritation.

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Plan your activities

Try to plan outdoor activities when pollen counts are lower. Li Zhongfei

Dawn and dusk tend to be the worst times of day for allergies, so try to plan your outdoor activities around them. Check pollen counts online before you go out, and take extra precautions or minimize your time outside when conditions are especially bad.

MORE: "Pollen storm" may not let up any time soon

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