In case you haven't heard, we're due for a so-called "pollen vortex" (yes, another vortex) thanks to a perfect storm of bad winter weather and high precipitation. Translation: if you're at all prone to allergies, the abnormally high level of pollen in the air is going to give you a rough spring.
And your apartment could be making it worse. Besides avoiding the outdoors (and hair gel, according to amNY) altogether, pollen-proofing your city home is a big part of the battle. "The key is really to be proactive," says Dr. Clifford Bassett of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York. And even if you don't have time for a large-scale overhaul, here are some basics to get you (and your apartment) through the spring in one piece:
Keep those windows closed
It's how the pollen gets in, after all. You've got to keep your place more or less sealed with air circulating, so run your air conditioner on a low setting (or "do not recirculate" if you have the option) after cleaning the filter. If there's one piece of advice you take away from this, it should be to close. Your. Windows.
Clean everything in sight....
This one's sort of a no brainer, but it bears repeating: To have any hope of keeping pollen out of your apartment, you've got to clean it (there's a reason spring cleaning is a thing, you know) like you would dust.
The Mayo Clinic recommends getting rid of rugs entirely if you have 'em. But if you're set on keeping that Persian--or your downstairs neighbor insists on it--vacuum at least once a week, preferably with a HEPA vacuum, which will include the kind of special filtration system that makes it a must-have for the allergy-afflicted. Be sure to clean the blades on any ceiling fans ("Otherwise, they'll chop up and re-circulate any pollen in the air," says Dr. Bassett), and invest in cloth curtains--they're easy to throw in the laundry along with your bedding, which you also need to wash once a week, according to the guidelines from Mayo. Clear any air filters in the house once a month and wipe down surfaces often.
If you have allergy-prone kids, it helps to regularly wash stuffed animals, as well. ABC and Prevention put together a report that recommends washing them in 130-degree water, and if that's not an option, keeping them in a plastic bag in the freezer for a few days to kill off pollen (and germs, while we're at it).
Invest in some high-tech solutions
A good air filter really can work wonders with this stuff (especially when you're sleeping), and it's worth picking one up just to get through the night. For a heavy-duty investment piece Dr. Bassett recommends Rabbit Air (their filters are great for pet allergies, too) but if you're not quite dying to drop several hundred dollars, the New York Times has a good rundown of purifiers at every price point. If you own a home and have control over your central air system, Dr. Bassett says it's worth springing for a pleated HEPA air filter to keep the whole system clear.
And some low-tech solutions
Dr. Bassett also recommends incorporating house plants as a natural air filtration system, and tells us, "Depending on the size of your home, five, 10, or even 15 plants will do the trick. They help to scrub the air of chemicals and pollutants." Some plants filter more than others, though, and the Mother Nature Network has a round-up of options that have been scientifically proven to help clear the air.
If all else fails, skip town
A solution we can really get behind? "Take a vacation by a body of water," says Dr. Bassett. "The wind tends to be high, and the pollen is cleared out of the air more quickly." You don't have to tell us twice.