Spring begins this week. In most locations, wind-blown seasonal pollens from trees, grasses, flowers and weeds are already increasing. For 40 million Americans, these seasonal pollens are powerful allergens that trigger asthma and allergy symptoms.
Pollens are tiny grains, typically about six microns in diameter. When airborne, they can enter a person’s respiratory system, where the body treats them as invaders and releases antibodies for protection. The antibodies attack the inhaled pollens and release chemicals called histamines. These histamines trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
Where you live is important
Airborne pollen levels vary by location. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) the three worst large U.S. cities (ranked highest on the list) for spring allergies are:
- Jackson, Miss.,
- Knoxville, Tenn., and
- Chattanooga, Tenn.
Those cities are among the highest in grass, tree and weed pollens. The AAFA rankings also factor in the number of allergy specialists in the area and the number of allergy medications per patient in the area. Cities in the Southeast typically top the list because of the abundance of oak, maple and elm trees.
The cities ranked lowest (the best for those with allergies and asthma) on the list include:
- Portland, Ore.,
- Seattle, Wash., and
- San Diego, Calif.
Most of the cities ranked near the bottom of the list are in temperate climates with less pronounced seasonal shifts.
What to do about spring allergies
Short of relocation, there is very little anyone can do to prevent exposure to allergens outside the home or workplace. But indoors is a different story. Here are seven steps you can take to get back control of your springtime allergies:
- Schedule outdoor activities for early or late in the day. Pollen counts are usually highest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so experts recommend scheduling outdoor activities – such as errands and workouts – early in the morning or later in the day.
- Keep shoes outside, and brush off pets that have been outdoors. Pets, kids and shoes can bring pollen inside the house.
- Keep your windows closed whenever possible and run the air conditioning.
- Use an air purifier to remove allergens from the air indoors. IQAir® recommends the New Edition HealthPro® Series room air purifiers for allergen removal. IQAir HyperHEPA® filtration in the HealthPro Plus is proven and certified to filter particles of all sizes with a minimum efficiency of 99.5%. No other air purifier can match this performance.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Ordinary vacuums stir up allergens and recirculate small particles instead of capturing them.
- Don’t hang laundry outdoors on the line to dry in the fresh spring air. Especially during allergy season, dry clothes indoor in a dryer.
- Cut back on the use of carpeting and drapes in your home. Tile and hardwood floors are preferable to carpeting, which harbors allergens in your home. Shutters and blinds are preferable to drapes for the same reason.