Spring ushers in a long-awaited season of warm weather and beautiful blossoms, but for those affected with allergies, it can be a season of immense discomfort. Blooming flowers, trees and other greenery produce high levels of pollen. Seasonal showers encourage the growth of mold inside and outside your home. Even a well-intentioned Spring cleaning can help to stir up dust mites and other allergens around the house, causing sniffling, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. Use the following strategies to help you combat seasonal allergies and keep misery to a minimum.

Put yourself to the test

Consider undergoing an allergy test. There are a few different allergy tests available, but the skin prick test is the most common. Your doctor will make several small pricks or scratches on your back or forearm and will introduce various allergens to your skin, provoking a small, controlled allergic reaction. The results of this test will help identify which specific allergens you should avoid.

Medicine matters

There are many medications available over-the-counter that can effectively minimize the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays are popular options, with long-acting and non-drowsy formulations available. Allergy shots are another alternative that can provide relief. Your doctor can help you decide what type of treatment is most appropriate for your needs.

Wash, rinse and repeat

Since pollen readily adheres to hair and other fibers, you may pick up and retain allergens just from going outside for a short time. When coming indoors after outside activity, change your clothing as soon as possible to avoid spreading pollen throughout your home. Wash your hair often, and launder clothing frequently and thoroughly to reduce your exposure.

Pets tracking in pollen from outdoors are another common trigger. Bathe and groom your outdoor pets often, and don’t forget to wipe their paws and fur when they enter your home, since pollen can cling to them.

Stay indoors

Information about your local pollen level can be found in the newspaper, on the internet or on television. Many weather reports include an allergy forecast. Keep abreast of current conditions, and plan to stay inside when pollen counts are high. You may need to make some adjustments to your daily activities, hitting the gym rather than your usual hiking trail, for example. Pollen levels usually peak mid-afternoon, so try to run errands early in the morning or later in the day, rather than during your lunch break.

Clean up your act

Allergens can rapidly accumulate in your home. Keep windows closed, vacuum twice a week and wipe surfaces frequently to keep irritants at bay. Wearing a mask while doing chores, whether inside or outdoors, can help limit your exposure to dust, mold and pollen. Try to find a mask rated N95, which means that it filters out 95 percent of particles in accordance with the standards of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

When pollen counts are high, it is a good idea to wash your clothes, bedding and rugs as often as possible using hot water. It is also recommended that you replace the filters in your air conditioning vents frequently. Look for high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to reduce allergens in your home and help you survive the season.