Try these tips to make allergy season more bearable

GEHA | April 15, 2022

Asthma and allergies Asthma symptoms Asthma Health and wellness Everyday health
You can stay one step ahead of an asthma flare-up by taking your medications as prescribed.

The weather is warming up, which means spring is in the air. Unfortunately, so are allergens. If you are one of the 60 million Americans with seasonal allergies, pollen can trigger sneezing, a runny nose, congestion, and watery, itchy eyes. And for those living with asthma, it can be even worse.

Research has shown that pollen may trigger asthma attacks and has led to an increase in hospital stays for respiratory illnesses. Increased rainfall and rising temperatures can also add to problems with indoor air quality, leading to the growth of indoor mold, which may also aggravate respiratory conditions for people with asthma or mold allergies.

The effects of allergens for people living with asthma are harsher because the airways are already sensitive to irritants. When allergens — either pollen, mold or something else — enter these airways, the body’s response can be aggressive.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to make allergy season more bearable. When the pollen count is high:

  • Stay inside with doors and windows closed. Use an air conditioner.
  • Avoid going outside between 5–10 a.m., when the pollen count is highest. The pollen count is lowest in the late afternoon or after a heavy rain.
  • Keep your lawn short or replace the grass with a ground cover such as Irish moss, bunch grass or dichondra that doesn’t produce much pollen.
  • Wear a mask when cutting the grass — better yet, have someone without asthma cut it.

For mold:

  • Use an exhaust fan or open a window in the bathroom and kitchen when showering, cooking or watching dishes.
  • Fix water leaks as soon as they are discovered to prevent mold from growing.
  • If you find mold on a hard surface, clean the area with soap and water and make sure it is completely dry.
  • Don’t leave damp or wet items sitting around. Dry them completely within a day or so to prevent the growth of mold.
  • Keep indoor humidity at between 30%–50%. You can manage indoor humidity with a dehumidifier and measure the amount of humidity with a hygrometer.

Consistently taking your asthma medications as prescribed — even when there are no symptoms — can also help you stay one step ahead of an asthma flare-up. Managing asthma is different for everyone. If you haven’t already, work with your doctor to develop an individual action plan. This plan can be kept in a billfold, purse or app and can be adjusted over time. Your primary care physician is a key ally in managing not only asthma, but your overall health. GEHA has tips for finding the right doctor and tools to find an in-network provider near you.

If it seems like allergy season has become longer and more severe, it’s not your imagination. A Rutgers University study discovered that between 2001 and 2010, pollen season started an average of three days earlier and the amount of airborne pollen was up more than 40% compared to the 1990s. This is in part to a warmer climate, which lead to a greater number of frost-free days, which benefits allergen-producing plants.


Sources:
“Allergens and Pollen.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 August, 2020.
“Allergic Asthma.” medlineplus.gov, National Library of Medicine, 18 August, 2020.
“Asthma Triggers: Gain Control.” epa.gov, Environmental Protection Agency, 5 April, 2022.
“Allergies, Asthma and Pollen.” medlineplus.gov, National Library of Medicine, 1 April, 2022.
“Climate and Allergies.” climate.gov, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10 September, 2021.
“Understand Your Asthma Medication.” lung.org, American Lung Association, 23 June, 2020.