Courtesy of Independent Health’s Corporate Wellness Team

Spring means flower buds and blooming trees. But if you’re one of the millions of people who have seasonal allergies, it also means sneezing, congestion, a runny nose and other bothersome symptoms. Seasonal allergies — also called hay fever and allergic rhinitis — can make you miserable.

However, before you settle for plastic flowers and artificial turf, try these simple strategies to keep seasonal allergies under control:

Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers
• Stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
• Delegate lawn mowing, weed pulling and other gardening chores that stir up allergens, or wear a mask if you do outside chores.
• Change your clothes after you’ve been outside. Shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
• Don’t hang laundry outside — pollen can stick to sheets and towels.

Take extra steps when pollen counts are high
• Check your local TV or radio station, your local newspaper or the Internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels.
• If high pollen counts are forecasted, start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start.
• Close doors and windows at night or when pollen counts are high.
• Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.

Keep indoor air clean
• Use the air conditioning in your house and car.
• If you have forced air heating or air conditioning systems in your house, use high-efficiency HEPA filters and follow regular maintenance schedules.
• Keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier.
• Use a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter.

Try an over-the-counter remedy
• Oral antihistamines can help relieve sneezing, itching, a runny nose and watery eyes.
• Oral decongestants can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness.
• Nasal sprays can ease allergy symptoms without any serious side effects.

Rinse your sinuses
• Rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution (nasal irrigation) is a quick, inexpensive and effective way to relieve nasal congestion by flushing out mucus and allergens from your nose.
• A neti pot, which is a nasal irrigation device, can be purchased at your local drug store.
• Use water that’s distilled, sterile, filtered, or previously boiled and cooled.

If your seasonal allergies are not relieved by the above tactics, don’t give up. Your doctor may recommend that you have a skin test or blood test to find out exactly what allergens trigger your symptoms. Testing can help determine what steps you need to take to avoid your specific triggers and identify which treatments are likely to work best for you.