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Allergy Season Is Here. We Asked An Allergist For Tips On Getting Through It

A bush with small pink and white flowers. In the background a woman with her eyeglasses pulled back to the top of her head is blowing her nose or sneezing into a tissue.
A woman blows her nose in Godewaersvelde, northern France on May 18, 2013, as the return of pleasant weather marks the arrival of allergenic pollen.
(Philippe Huguen
AFP via Getty Images)
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After one of California's wettest winters on record, flowers are starting to bloom, birds are chirping — and your nose won't stop running.

If you're among the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, there are ways to manage your symptoms. Dr. Shazia Lutfeali, an allergist and immunologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, joined us on our newsroom's public affairs show AirTalk, which airs on 89.3 FM, to share how you might find some relief this spring.

Managing exposure

Lutfeali says some of her patients' allergies are more severe this year than they have been before, and some people even seem to be experiencing allergies for the first time. This could be because of the massive amount of rainfall California received, which means more plants are blooming now and more pollen is in the air.

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That's why Lutfeali says her first recommendation to patients is to minimize their exposure, which can actually mean following some pretty simple tips:

  • Use air conditioning and HEPA filters when possible.
  • Change your clothes when you go inside, to avoid tracking pollen onto your furniture.
  • Wear sunglasses outside.
  • Air-dry your clothes inside — clothes drying on outdoor lines can collect pollen.
  • Shower and wash your hair before you go to sleep to avoid bringing the allergens into your bed.
  • Give your pets an extra-thorough brush, or maybe even a bath (if they'll let you)!

Natural remedies & medications

Lutfeali says there are many ways you can try reducing your symptoms, with or without medications. You could:

  • Gargle with saltwater, which can help break up the mucus from the nasal passages.
  • Use saline rinses and daily mist spray.
  • Drink warm water with honey, for a soothing effect.
  • Use simple devices like Breathe Right strips to open up your nasal passages as you sleep.
  • If you use medications like Zyrtec or Allegra, rotate between them so your body doesn't get too used to any particular one.

Allergy shots

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, Lutfeali says allergen immunotherapy could be more of a long-term solution.

Rather than reducing contact with allergens, these shots, or sometimes tablets, expose you to them directly and in gradually increasing levels.

"The idea behind that is actually to change your immune system's response to those allergens, so that over time, you don't have as many symptoms," Lutfeali says.

No one-size-fits-all approach

As an allergist, Lutfeali says she evaluates what is and isn't working and readjusts her approach from there — sometimes by increasing the dose of a medication, changing the recipe of a shot, or recommending the removal of a particular plant from a patient's back yard.

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Each person's allergy symptoms will be different too — so if you're really struggling this season, Lutfeali says she recommends seeing an allergist to talk through all your options.

Listen to the conversation

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