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10 Ways To Keep Your Seasonal Allergies Under Control

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Most people think of spring as peak allergy season, but depending on where you live, outdoor allergens are present year-round (in New York, for example, pollen season typically begins in June). During the spring, summer, and early fall, pollen from trees and weeds may cause you to suffer from congestion, itchy eyes, and sneezing. Whether you’re allergic to grass pollen, tree pollen, weeds, molds, or pet dander, here are 10 ways to keep your seasonal allergies under control.

1. KEEP POLLEN OUT OF YOUR HOME.

Taking steps to keep pollen and other outdoor allergens out of your home will give you some relief from allergy symptoms. Keep windows and doors closed, and don’t hang up laundry to air dry outside (pollen can cling to sheets and clothes). Vacuuming and dusting will also keep your floors as clean and allergen-free as possible. Consider wearing a dust mask while you clean to avoid inhaling allergens.

2. TAKE ALLERGY MEDICINE BEFORE THINGS GET BAD.

It might be tempting to ignore symptoms of mild nasal congestion or watery eyes, but your allergy symptoms can get bad quickly. According to Dr. Kellie Lim, an allergist-immunologist who practices at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, you can prevent or minimize symptoms by taking medication before allergy season starts. “The best treatment for allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is a nasal steroid spray,” Lim tells mental_floss. Oral antihistamines (such as Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin) also help to treat symptoms and can safely be taken daily for long periods of time.

3. IRRIGATE YOUR NASAL PASSAGES.

Nasal irrigation may look weird, but it can provide much needed allergy relief. By squirting a saline solution (distilled or previously boiled water plus salt) up one nostril and out the other, you flush out allergens and extra mucus from your nostrils and sinuses. Dr. Suman Golla, an Associate Professor, Ear Nose & Throat at University of Pittsburgh Medical School, tells mental_floss that saline nasal rinses and neti pots are very effective at cleansing the nasal passages of pollen, dust, and other irritants and allergens.

4. CHOOSE WHEN TO EXERCISE OUTDOORS WISELY.

Pollen levels vary throughout the day, so be strategic about when you head outside to exercise, do chores, or have a picnic. According to Golla, patients with severe allergies may want to consider staying indoors during the early morning or late evening hours, when pollen counts are high. Lim suggests outdoor exercise after it rains, when pollen counts are typically low. Keep in mind that sunny, warm, windy days with low humidity generally have high pollen counts, but the ubiquity of pollen means that you can never completely escape it.

5. DITCH YOUR RUGS.

For allergy sufferers, hardwood and tile floors are preferable to carpets. If you rent your home or don’t want to remove your carpeting, ditch any area rugs you might have. These rugs can act like magnets for allergens such as pet dander, pollen, dust, and dust mites. Even if you vacuum and wash your rugs regularly, allergens from your shoes or pets can get embedded in the fibers, making your home less allergy-friendly.

6. CHECK THE WEATHER REPORT FOR A POLLEN FORECAST.

Just like the temperature, pollen counts change daily. If you’re planning to spend the day outdoors, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you check the pollen forecast for your area to determine if you should take more allergy medicine, stay indoors, or close your windows. Visit the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s National Allergy Bureau for pollen and mold levels, or head to The Weather Channel’s allergy forecast to see pollen activity in your area for the next few days.

7. SHOWER BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP.

If you’ve spent the day outside, take a shower before going to sleep to wash allergens off your body and out of your hair. A clean body, free of pollen and dust, will help keep your bed clean, giving you a better chance of getting a full night’s sleep—without sneezing fits.

8. KEEP PETS OFF YOUR BED.

Making your bedding allergy-friendly can be a big boon to easing your allergy symptoms. Golla stresses the importance of keeping pets out of the bedroom: “Within the bedroom, the upholstery, draperies, and the bed itself are prime locations for pet dander deposition. Please do your best to keep your pets out of your bedroom and especially out of your bed.” To minimize dust mites, use a zippered, allergen-proof pillowcase and mattress cover, and regularly wash your linens in hot water (around 130 to 140°F) to kill the mites (and remove their eggs).

9. USE AN AIR PURIFIER.

If you have central air conditioning, make sure you regularly clean the vents so that dust and other allergens don't blow around your home. You can also purchase an air purifier with a HEPA filter to keep your air as clean as possible. “An air purifier can be very effective in reducing allergen exposure, if used in certain conditions,” says Lim. Her advice? Put the air purifier in your bedroom or home office, and keep pets out and windows closed. Vacuum and clean the room frequently to reduce allergens and ensure that the purifier is able to filter particles as effectively as possible.

10. SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT WITH AN ALLERGIST.

If you’re still struggling with your allergies, book an appointment with an allergist who is board-certified in Allergy and Immunology. Your allergist can facilitate allergy testing, prescribe medications, and explore long-term treatment options such as allergy shots.

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Not Sure About Your Tap Water? Here's How to Test for Contaminants
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In the wake of Flint, Michigan's water crisis, you may have begun to wonder: Is my tap water safe? How would I know? To put your mind at ease—or just to satisfy your scientific curiosity—you can find out exactly what's in your municipal water pretty easily, as Popular Science reports. Depending on where you live, it might even be free.

A new water quality test called Tap Score, launched on Kickstarter in June 2017, helps you test for the most common household water contaminants for $120 per kit. You just need to take a few samples, mail them to the lab, and you'll get the results back in 10 days, telling you about lead levels, copper and cadmium content, arsenic, and other common hazardous materials that can make their way into water via pipes or wells. If you're mostly worried about lead, you can get a $40 test that only tells you about the lead and copper content of your water.

In New York State, a free lead-testing program will send you a test kit on request that allows you to send off samples of your water to a state-certified lab for processing, no purchase required. A few weeks later, you'll get a letter with the results, telling you what kind of lead levels were found in your water. This option is great if you live in New York, but if your state doesn't offer free testing (or only offers it to specific locations, like schools), there are other budget-friendly ways to test, too.

While mailing samples of your water off to a certified lab is the most accurate way to test your water, you can do it entirely at home with inexpensive strip tests that will only set you back $10 to $15. These tests aren't as sensitive as lab versions, and they don't test for as many contaminants, but they can tell you roughly whether you should be concerned about high levels of toxic metals like lead. The strip tests will only give you positive or negative readings, though, whereas the EPA and other official agencies test for the concentration of contaminants (the parts-per-billion) to determine the safety of a water source. If you're truly concerned with what's in your water, you should probably stick to sending your samples off to a professional, since you'll get a more detailed report of the results from a lab than from a colored strip.

In the future, there will likely be an even quicker way to test for lead and other metals—one that hooks up to your smartphone. Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old from Colorado, won the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge by inventing Tethys, a faster lead-testing device than what's currently on the market. With Tethys, instead of waiting for a lab, you can get results instantly. It's not commercially available yet, though, so for now, we'll have to stick with mail-away options.

[h/t Popular Science]

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Bill Gates is Spending $100 Million to Find a Cure for Alzheimer's
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Not everyone who's blessed with a long life will remember it. Individuals who live into their mid-80s have a nearly 50 percent chance of developing Alzheimer's, and scientists still haven't discovered any groundbreaking treatments for the neurodegenerative disease [PDF]. To pave the way for a cure, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has announced that he's donating $100 million to dementia research, according to Newsweek.

On his blog, Gates explained that Alzheimer's disease places a financial burden on both families and healthcare systems alike. "This is something that governments all over the world need to be thinking about," he wrote, "including in low- and middle-income countries where life expectancies are catching up to the global average and the number of people with dementia is on the rise."

Gates's interest in Alzheimer's is both pragmatic and personal. "This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s," he said. "I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you're experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew."

Experts still haven't figured out quite what causes Alzheimer's, how it progresses, and why certain people are more prone to it than others. Gates believes that important breakthroughs will occur if scientists can understand the condition's etiology (or cause), create better drugs, develop techniques for early detection and diagnosis, and make it easier for patients to enroll in clinical trials, he said.

Gates plans to donate $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund, a venture capital fund that supports Alzheimer's research and treatment developments. The rest will go to research startups, Reuters reports.

[h/t Newsweek]

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