Warmer temperatures, fresh flowers and sunshine? Yes, please. Itching, sneezing and watery eyes? Um, no thanks. For those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies, springtime isn’t fun and games. While some triggers are pretty obvious (in retrospect, that picnic in the park probably wasn’t such a good idea), some of your everyday habits could actually be exacerbating those pesky symptoms. Here, seven sneaky culprits that are making your allergies even worse.
1. Your Clothes
Pollen can get stuck to fabric rather easily, and after a day spent out and about, you’re bringing all those irritants home, spreading them to your couch, the bed, your dining room—you get the idea. To stop the proliferation of any potential allergens, change your clothes as soon as you get home, and wash them in hot (not cold) water. Another top tip? Take a shower before bed to remove pollen from your hair and skin.
2. Certain types of fruits and vegetables
Here’s something kind of weird: Certain raw produce (like apples, tomatoes and celery) have a protein on the surface that your body can confuse with pollen. It’s called oral allergy syndrome and can lead to annoying symptoms like an itchy throat and mouth. Peeling and cooking these foods may help, but some people will need to avoid them entirely.
In case you needed another reason to chill out, research shows that stress is bad news for allergy sufferers. A study from Ohio State University tracked 179 people with hay fever over two 14-day periods. They found that subjects who reported higher levels of stress experienced more frequent allergy flare-ups. Consider this your excuse to cancel all plans this weekend and indulge in a little self-care.
4. Your Favorite Candle
We know, that vanilla spice–scented candle is divine. But even though it doesn’t necessarily release any allergens, the chemicals in the fragrance could be irritating for those who suffer from hay fever. Ditto for your signature perfume, so you might want to go au naturel until the season is over.
5. Contact Lenses
Ditch the contacts and reach for your glasses during allergy season, experts say. Wearing lenses may accidentally trap pollen in your eyes, which can lead to irritation. If you don’t want to give up your contacts, opt for hard ones instead of the softer styles (their permeability means more airborne irritants can be absorbed), or try the disposable options that can help avoid a buildup of pollen.
Sorry, but that glass of wine could be doing more harm than good. While all booze acts as a vasodilator (i.e., widens blood vessels, which can lead to a runny nose), red wine is problematic in particular, since it’s so high in sulfites. (That is, compounds that actually cause an allergic reaction.)
7. Cigarette Smoke
Even if you’re not a smoker yourself, you’ll want to keep a safe distance from secondhand smoke, which can amplify allergy symptoms, per the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.