It's like a scene from a low-budget horror flick: the trees are blooming, the grass is growing...and runny-nosed zombies are invading the planet! Seasonal allergies are here, but if you're one of the sniffly multitudes, you may have noticed that the "allergy season" can span most of the year.
From our friends at Health.com, here's your best defense - from least to most invasive, medically speaking. Try the first few and you may not need to hit the pharmacy at all.
Your symptoms surfaced as early as February, when trees started blooming. Next up, it's grasses that might make you miserable (they will through late summer). Weeds will keep you wheezing through fall.
Click on the National Allergy Bureau website for a daily ranking of allergens, including seasonal tree pollens, grasses, weeds, and outdoor molds. Stay indoors when levels are high or very high for those that you're sensitive to.
If nasal washes and antihistamines don't work for you, up the ante with a prescription steroid spray like Flonase, but you can skip decongestants; Dr. Kao says they don't work for allergies and may worsen your congestion after several days of use.
To fight dust mites, look for mattress and pillow encasements at stores like Target, as well as online retailers like AllergyBuyersClub.com; costs range from $50 to $150 for bedding made from organic cotton.
Not literally, but you should wash your sheets and pillowcases weekly in water that's at least 140 degrees; a study in the "Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology" found that this temperature wiped out all dust mites.
This won't take much arm-twisting, will it?
Vacuuming and sweeping stir up dust mites and their droppings, which can take more than two hours to settle.
If you can't hire someone else to clean your house while you're away, invest in a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, like the Eureka Boss SmartVac ($170) - and wear a trusty filter mask.
If you're set off by pets, you may be allergic to proteins found in the animal's saliva, dander (dead skin flakes), and urine. And all furry pets carry these proteins; studies suggest hypoallergenic cats and dogs can cause just as many symptoms as the regular kind. Here are better steps you can take if you can't bear to part with Rover or Frisky.
Ban him from the bedroom
Just keeping pets out (or better yet, away from your upstairs entirely) can help relieve your symptoms.
Do you have a runny, stuffy nose that just won't quit? If dust-proofing your house and taking antihistamines don't make you feel better, you may have a condition called chronic nonallergic rhinitis, a swelling of your nasal lining and passages that leaves you congested and drippy.
"Unlike your usual allergies, you don't have an itchy nose, eyes, or throat, and you don't respond to allergy medications," explains Dr. Bassett.
Try eliminating irritants like strong odors (think perfume or household cleaners). Saline nasal sprays and rinses often bring relief, but if they don't work, ask your doctor for a steroid nasal spray.