The millions of people coughing, sneezing and sniffling their way through what some experts predict could be the worst allergy season in years may not know about some of the more unusual ways to lessen their symptoms.
Here are some ways you may not have considered to get allergy relief:
Use Special Filters in Heating and Air Cooling Systems
MERV ratings are used to determine how well a filter removes dust from the air as it passes through. The higher the MERV score, the better the filter is at preventing allergens from staying in the air.
"Install a MERV 12 disposable high efficiency media filter in the furnace and air-conditioning system," says Dr. James Sublett, managing partner of Family Allergy and Asthma in Louisville, Ky. "Change the filter every three months. Leave the fan on to create whole house filtration."
Sublett also recommends paying close attention to the direction of household vents.
"Use vent fans in bathrooms and when cooking to remove moisture," he says.
Start Treatment Early
While allergy season is already underway, a good tip for the future is to get an early start on treatment.
"See an allergist for simple, fast, reliable allergy tests so you can get relief," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine in N.Y. and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of N.Y. "Many medications will work better if you start them even before symptoms begin in many cases."
Change Clothes Outside the Bedroom
"Change your clothing before entering your bedroom to reduce pollens from being brought into your bedroom," says Bassett.
Monitor Moisture Indoors
There are more allergens in the air when it's humid, so experts recommend maintaining a consistently low level of humidity in the home.
"Measure the indoor humidity and keep it below 50 percent," says Sublett. "Do not use vaporizers or humidifiers. You may need a dehumidifier."
Bassett says about 35 percent of people with seasonal allergies also show a sensitivity to certain foods. For example, people allergic to grass pollens may also be allergic to melons, tomatoes or oranges. Those allergic to alder tree pollen may show some sensitivity to almonds, apples, cherries or certain other foods.
"However, it should be noted that reaction to one or more foods in any given category does not necessarily mean a person is allergic to all foods in that group," Bassett says.
A Simple Test Can Guide You in the Right Direction
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology sponsors a free self-test on its web site to help determine symptoms and point out where to find an allergist.
"The screening program is a way to get information to review with doctor and get on the road to recovery," said Bassett.