Also called hay fever, seasonal allergies worsen when the weather warms up and blossoming flowers, trees, weeds, and grasses spew pollen into the air. "An overzealous immune system mistakes these harmless particles for intruders and releases inflammatory chemicals called histamines and leukotrines to combat them," explains Thomas B. Casale, chief of allergy/ immunology at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, and president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI). Consequently, your airways and nasal linings swell, triggering congestion, wheezing, and foggy thinking.
Although experts aren't clear why people develop the lifelong condition in the first place, they say genes are partly to blame. While there's no instant fix for seasonal allergies, making a few tweaks to your environment and schedule—like showering at night instead of in the a.m.—can alleviate symptoms. Try these easy everyday strategies and you'll finally have a sniffle-free spring.
Block out allergens The No. 1 antiallergy move is to keep those triggers at bay, so be sure to leave your windows shut during pollen season. Then run the air conditioner on the "recycle" setting, which filters the air that’s indoors. "That will trap any particles that did sneak inside," says Eric Schenkel, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Also rinse or replace the filter every two weeks to remove any dust and keep it running efficiently.