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Respiratory Health

New Ways to Stay Sneeze-Free

woman smelling flowers

1. Get the right meds
Although more and more treatments are available over-the-counter, if you’re really suffering, it pays to see an allergist to get a treatment plan tailored specifically to you.

The gold standard of allergy care is a combination of oral anti-histamines, such as Zyrtec, Claritin, or Allegra (taken at night, since pollen counts peak in the a.m.), and histamine-blocking eye drops and nasal sprays (there are now both prescription and OTC versions). The big guns are intranasal corticosteroids such as Flonase and Nasonex—prescription steroid sprays that reduce symptom-causing inflammation in your nasal passages.

2. Get the shot
If you’ve got severe allergies, immunotherapy—a.k.a. allergy shots—may still be your best bet. Says allergist Dr. Neil Kao, of the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville, South Carolina: "It’s the only therapy known to treat the disease process so you can end symptoms for good, not just in the moment."

3. Scrub the mold
A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter attachment on your A/C can help remove mold spores and pollen from the air.

Avoid mold altogether by using a dehumidifier; keeping typically wet, humid spots such as bathrooms and the basement as clean and dry as possible; and getting someone else to rake the leaves this fall.

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4. Let supplements help
When you inhale allergens, they trigger inflammation in your nasal passages. "There’s increasing evidence that vitamin D might reduce that inflammation," says Dr. Kao. He recommends 600 IU of D daily: "It won’t hurt, and it might help."

Probiotics can restore gut bacteria to a healthy balance, minimizing overreactions in the immune system that can lead to allergy symptoms, says Huffnagle, who suggests taking a supplement with three to five billion CFU (colony-forming units) daily.

5. Eat your treatment
"A Mediterranean diet’s a win-win," Kao says, since the fruits, vegetables, and nuts the diet is rich in have been shown to protect against symptoms.

So have foods packed with vitamin C (think broccoli, kale, and citrus fruits) and folate(turkey, chicken, lentils, spinach).

6. Check for food allergies
There are also key foods to avoid. One is alcohol: The bacteria and yeast it contains generally produce histamines, which can worsen allergy woes.

Some allergy sufferers also experience Oral Allergy Syndrome, which is a tingly, itchy feeling in the lips, tongue, and throat after eating certain raw foods. (It’s not deadly but can be uncomfortable.)

If you’re allergic to tree pollen, you might be sensitive to carrots, cherries, peaches, plums, almonds, or walnuts; the ragweed-allergic might react to melons, bananas, strawberries, and cucumbers.