Coping with seasonal allergies at the cottage


Ah, the cottage. Ah, the fresh, clean air. Ah, the peace and quiet.


Your time at the cottage is precious—so don’t let your getaway disappear in a haze of allergy symptoms.

Your immune system reacts to allergens as though your body is being invaded by Visigoths, attacking the invaders by triggering the characteristic stuffy nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing of seasonal allergies.

Pollen is the main cause of seasonal allergies, better known as hay fever—and many common cottage-country trees and grasses, including maple, pine, and blue fescue, are particularly pollen-heavy. Tree pollen season, which can cause symptoms in up to a quarter of hay fever sufferers, starts between late March and mid-May. Grass pollen, which causes problems for up to 95 percent people with seasonal allergies, starts between late May and mid-July.

And while your immune system may be in overdrive, you can put the brakes on a seasonal allergy attack. While medication can certainly help, there are other steps you can take to reduce the number of pills you have to swallow.

Outside the cottage
•    Avoid going outside in the early morning and late afternoon, when the pollen count tends to be highest.
•    Stay indoors on windy days, when pollen can get whipped into the air. It may be gloomy to go for a walk in the rain, but wet days are better for allergies.
•    Wear wraparound sunglasses when you’re outside. This will help prevent pollen from irritating your peepers.
•    Change your clothes, wash your hair, and wipe down your pets after being outside. Clothes, hair, and fur can carry pollen into the cottage.
•    Ask guests to remove their shoes before coming inside. If you’d like to be particularly hospitable, provide a collection of inexpensive slippers or flip-flops for everyone to wear.

Inside the cottage
•    To cut down on dust mites, which can cause allergy symptoms, wash your bedding in hot water, and enclose your mattress and pillows in specialized covers.
•    If you have breathing problems, consider using alternatives to commercial cleaning products: vinegar on windows, mirrors, and taps, or vegetable oil and lemon juice for dusting.
•    If you have air filters in your cottage, change them often, and dust frequently.
•    Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, and also consider wearing a mask when dusting and vacuuming.
•    If a stuffy nose is bothering you, invest in a neti pot and rinse your nasal passages with distilled water and saline solution daily. Use nasal strips at night if you’re having trouble breathing through your nose.

Finally, consider natural remedies to help alleviate symptoms. Herbs like butterbur and quercetin have been shown to be effective in counteracting the effects of hay fever.