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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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Interactive Chart Tells You How Long It Takes to Get Frostbite
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For many people, winter means dry skin and high heating bills. But if you find yourself outdoors in the right conditions, it can also mean frostbite. Frostbite occurs when the skin and the tissue beneath it freezes, causing pain, loss of sensation, or worse. It's easier to contract than you may think, even if you don't live in the Siberian tundra. To see if frostbite poses a threat where you live, check out this chart spotted by Digg.

The chart, developed by Pooja Gandhi and Adam Crahen using National Weather Service data, looks at three factors: wind speed, air temperature, and time spent outdoors. You can hover your cursor over data-points on the table to see how long you'd need to be exposed to certain wind chills for your skin tissue to freeze. If the wind chill is -22°F, for example (10°F air temperature with 5 mph winds), it would take 31 minutes of being outside before frostbite sets in. You can also look at the time scale above the chart to calculate it a different way. If you bring your cursor to the 40-minute mark, a window will tell that frostbite becomes a risk after exposure to -17°F wind chill for that amount of time. You can play with the interactive table at Tableau Public.

Chart of cold weather conditions.
Adam Crahen, Pooja Gandhi

If you can't avoid being outside in extreme wind and cold, there are a few steps you can take to keep your skin protected. Wear lots of layers, including multiple socks, and wrap your face with a scarf or face mask before venturing into the cold. Also, remember to stay hydrated. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, drinking at least one glass of water before going outside decreases your risk of contracting frostbite.

[h/t Digg]

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Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow
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Everyone could use a better night's rest. The CDC says that only 66 percent of American adults get as much sleep as they should, so if you're spending plenty of time in bed but mostly tossing and turning (or trying to block out your partner's snores), it may be time to smarten up your sleep accessories. As TechCrunch reports, the ZEEQ Smart Pillow improves your sleeping schedule in a multitude of ways, whether you're looking to quiet your snores or need a soothing lullaby to rock you to sleep.

After a successful Kickstarter in 2016, the product is now on sale and ready to get you snoozing. If you're a snorer, the pillow has a microphone designed to listen to the sound of your snores and softly vibrate so that you shift positions to a quieter pose. Accelerometers in the pillow let the sleep tracker know how much you're moving around at night, allowing it to record your sleep stages. Then, you can hook the pillow up to your Amazon Echo or Google Home so that you can have your favorite smart assistant read out the pillow's analysis of your sleep quality and snoring levels the next morning.

The pillow is also equipped with eight different wireless speakers that turn it into an extra-personal musical experience. You can listen to soothing music while you fall asleep, either connecting the pillow to your Spotify or Apple Music account on your phone via Bluetooth or using the built-in relaxation programs. You can even use it to listen to podcasts without disturbing your partner. You can set a timer to turn the music off after a certain period so you don't wake up in the middle of the night still listening to Serial.

And when it's time to wake up, the pillow will analyze your movements to wake you during your lightest sleep stage, again keeping the noise of an alarm from disturbing your partner.

The downside? Suddenly your pillow is just another device with a battery that needs to charge. And forget about using it in a place without Wi-Fi.

The ZEEQ Smart Pillow currently costs $200.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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