7. BE BOLD WITH MOLD
If you’re preparing for a fog of summer humidity, you’d be wise to add a dehumidifier to your heating and cooling system, or buy a standalone unit to prevent allergy-triggering mold.
Check a central air conditioner to make sure water isn’t dripping off the coil and making a puddle where spores can grow. In cooler climes, install double or triple-glazed windows to prevent condensation on windows says indoor air quality expert Max Sherman, a fellow of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers. His advice: “Dry it, and they will not come.”
If you do find mold, rather than dousing it with lung-irritating bleach, try a cleaner free from harsh chemicals, such as MoldStat, Concrobium Mold Control, Vital Oxide or Safe Shield. For big jobs, call in a mold contractor, and soon.
8. THE QUICKER SHOT
Immunotherapy can bring great relief for those suffering from seasonal pollen allergies. Your doctor will confirm whether you’re a candidate for allergy shots, but there’s a downside – a typical patient spends five years building up immunity, and an estimated 40 to 50 hours of total time in the doctor’s office getting jabbed.
However, if your concern is ragweed allergy, there is a far quicker option available. Spring is when you’d need to check with your doctor about the Pollinex-R vaccine, which requires a series of only four shots, one week apart and repeated for just three years. The shots need to be given ahead of the ragweed onslaught.
And swift desensitization now appears on the horizon for grass pollen. In development is Pollinex Quattro, which is meant to build immunity with just four needles a season over three years. There have been promising research trials for this new vaccine, and the manufacturer recently had a long regulatory hurdle cleared in the United States. Ehrlich says the jury is out on whether this quick-shot regime will leave patients as resistant to hay fever several years down the road. But he adds: “I hope they do come out. They could be great.”
9. POLLEN SCREENERS
If you still hanker for a natural breeze, consider installing PollenTEC’s window screens. You can buy a roll and cut them to fit windows and doors, or order pre-cut rectangles. In independent European testing, the polyester screens removed 100 per cent of grass pollens, 99.7 per cent of birch pollen, and nearly 91 per cent of ragweed pollen from outside air. For information, see www.pollentec.com.
When it comes to your own face, if you’re the sort who must mow the grass or feels compelled to garden near aggravating trees, allergist Ehrlich advises wearing a triple-layered face mask to filter out the pollen. Timing is important: there’s far less pollen floating around on a still, drizzly evening than on a warm windy morning.
10. POLLEN STOPPERS
Showering and brushing off pets are strategies for reducing indoor pollen and controlling hay fever. But if you need more help, a non-pharmaceutical tactic for milder allergies is the pollen blocker. They may look like another nasal spray or cream, but blockers are biologically inert and stop pollen from interacting with your nose.
The blockers could stand more clinical studies to bolster their credibility, but a handful have found that users reduced hay fever symptoms and medication use, and were better able to breathe through their noses.
A cream form, Dr. Theiss Alergol Pollen Blocker Cream, is available online, and a fine misting nose spray powder, Nasal Ease is available at Walgreen’s.
11. ROBOT THAT MOWS
Those with grass allergies might consider improving their breathing this spring by leaving the lawn-mowing to someone else. Or, something else. Kyodo America makes six models of the LawnBott, which will meander through your yard quietly trimming, while you’re safely removed from the grass pollen.
The bot has sensors and bumpers to keep it on the lawn and out of flowerbeds. Prices range from $1,200 to $5,000, and higher end models come with a rain detector and theft alarm.
Also on the market is the Robomow, an automated mower that will mulch the grass it cuts and leave it on the lawn. Models are available on Amazon.com for between $1,600 and $2,500.
To minimize allergy aggravation, keep the grass short (and not pollinating) by cutting it frequently.
12. LOBBY FOR ‘SMART’ TREES
Your own actions could help to reclaim spring (and future springs) in your hometown. Writing a letter to city hall and your school board to encourage allergy-friendly planting programs could prompt action, especially if others to do the same.
Pollen’s effects can cause sleeplessness, followed by fatigue and poor concentration and even asthma attacks. One city that now takes tree pollination seriously is Albuquerque, where a boy died from an asthma attack after falling into a pollinating juniper bush. That led to a pollen control ordinance, which includes making it illegal to plant a male cypress or mulberry tree within city limits. Las Vegas, Tuscon and Phoenix have followed with similar rules.
But outside that pocket of enlightenment, urban foresters across North America are still planting some of the most allergenic trees available. The practice is considered compatible with healthy forest regeneration, but the fact is that few forestry departments have weighed the benefits to humans of reducing numbers of male trees.
If every allergy sufferer were to tell city hall just how big a wallop some trees can pack, local governments would likely re-consider new landscaping and tree replacement. There are, after all, millions of us who could speak up this spring. New shots, sprays, pills and gadgets are increasingly making our allergies manageable. But how wonderful would it be to step out on a fine spring day under a canopy of trees that didn’t make you sneeze at all.