You know the feeling, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, a nose that won’t stop running. While, for most people, the start of spring is an occasion for celebration, allergy sufferers may not be in a very festive mood.

If you are someone who suffers from seasonal allergies, or hay fever, as it’s often known, you probably have some questions. Have things always been this bad? Have my symptoms gotten worse? Has there always been THIS much pollen? Is this just in my head?

The unfortunate reality is that allergy season has gotten longer and more intense. As the temperatures rise and carbon dioxide levels increase, pollen counts have risen and pollen season has gotten longer.

Not only are people with allergies suffering for a longer amount of time, more people are getting allergies. In fact, 10-30% of the world’s population are currently affected by seasonal allergies.

But, although allergies are getting worse, they are far from a new phenomenon. In fact, as long as 5000 years ago, people in China treated what they called “plant fever” with the berries of the horse tail plant.

Fortunately, with the increase of allergies has also come improvements in allergy treatments. Here are some of the most effective ways to deal with the increase in pollen.

Understand your triggers

All allergens are not created equal. A visit to the allergist can help you pinpoint the exact triggers that are making you miserable… and help you avoid them. Understanding the specifics of things that you’re allergic to can be a big step in prevention. For instance, if you’re allergic to oak, birch, hickory, pecan, or grass, you may want to limit your outdoor time in the early spring. If ragweed is what triggers you, then late summer and fall might be a good time to work on some indoor projects.

Know your local pollen count

Wind picks up pollen and spreads it everywhere, so dry, windy days tend to produce the highest pollen count. On the other hand, moisture weighs down pollen, so rainy days usually have less pollen. There are places online you can go to check your area’s pollen count. Make sure to check regularly so that you can plan your outings for days least likely to cause you misery.

Take over-the-counter remedies

Decongestants, oral antihistamines, and nasal sprays can all be helpful in reducing allergy symptoms. However, many over-the-counter medications can make you drowsy and the longer-term use of decongestant nasal sprays can actually worsen symptoms. For the long term, you may want to consider other options.

Try (scientifically-proven) ancient wisdom

Since allergies have been around so long, there are countless home remedies available. For instance, butterbur is a type of marsh plant that has long been known for its use in allergy reduction. But, unfortunately, there are plenty of natural “cures” with no real proof of their effectiveness. What makes butterbur different is that scientific studies have actually shown that it reduces allergy symptoms. Quercetin and Bromelain are two more natural supplements whose allergy-reducing capabilities have been backed by science.

Rinse your sinuses

Devices like net-pots can be a quick, inexpensive way to flush out mucus and allergens from your nose. But, it’s important that you do it properly. The FDA recommends only using distilled, sterile or previously boiled water, never tap.

Consider immunotherapy

If medication hasn’t worked for you, and avoiding your allergens isn’t manageable, allergy shots may be something to consider. Allergy shots work by exposing your body to tiny amounts of the specific substances that trigger your reaction. The shots are usually given over a period of three to five years and can be highly effective over time. Of course, like most treatments, there are some risks, but generally, the side effects are mild and can be treated in-office.

Use an air purifier

One of the most effective ways to eliminate pollen in your home is by using an air purifier with a true HEPA filter. A good air purifier can remove up to 99.95% of the pollutants in your air, making your home an oasis of easy breathing. As pollen season lengthens and intensifies, air purifiers are becoming an essential tool in the battle against allergies.