If you're sneezing because of allergy season, follow this handy to-do list to find relief.

By Mary Bolster

The days may be getting shorter, but allergy season is getting longer. Increasing carbon dioxide levels—caused by the burning of fossil fuels—are prompting plants to grow faster and boosting pollen production. If you're still sneezing, use this handy to-do list from Kevin McGrath, M.D., spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, to find relief.

What to Do Right Now

Be proactive about meds. Delaying treatment for your runny nose, itchy eyes or congestion may lead to other problems like asthma and chronic sinus infections, says Dr. McGrath. Have an over-the-counter antihistamine like Allegra, Zyrtec or Claritin on hand and take it before symptoms kick in, especially to get by outside when pollen counts are high or around pets and other allergens.

Book an appointment. For symptoms that don't abate, visit a board-certified allergist, who can determine exactly what you're allergic to and recommend prescription-strength antihistamines, such as Clarinex, or even allergy injections.

Avoid other irritants. People with seasonal allergies are often sensitive to mold and pet dander too. Keep pets out of the bedroom or at least off the bed. Toss out area rugs, which can trap allergens from dogs and cats as well as dust mites. Use a dehumidifier in the basement when it's damp, and prevent mold by fixing any leaks in ceilings or walls.

What to Do Every Day

Watch the clock. Pollen counts peak between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., so plan activities for late afternoon.

Give your AC a workout. Keep windows and doors shut and put the air conditioner on recirculate, advises Dr. McGrath. Replace AC filters with high-efficiency disposable pleated media filters every two to three months.

What to Do Every Week

Outsmart allergens indoors. Bathe pets, wash bedding in hot water and dry sheets on the highest temperature. Use allergy covers on bedding and nix scented candles and air fresheners. "Anything with a heavy scent can irritate allergies," says Dr. McGrath.

Make a cleaner sweep. Trade in your old vacuum for one with a HEPA filter, which traps even tiny particles, and clean the house at least once a week, especially if you have carpeting.

Originally published in the October 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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