Pollen grains from trees, grasses and weeds float through the air and into your nose, eyes and lungs. You may be allergic to one plant or many.

Trees are the first to begin releasing pollen in late winter and early spring; they’ll be followed by grasses in late spring and summer and by weeds, especially the potent ragweed, in late summer and fall. In many areas of the country, pollens are present year-round.

Here are some tips for minimizing your exposure:

1. Stay alert

Avoid outdoor activities on high pollen days. Alerts are often broadcast with weather reports, or you can check online.

2. Shut up

Keep windows closed and run the air conditioner in car and home; use the recycle option in your car.

3. Rinse fully

Keep pollen off your pillows and furnishings. Change your clothes and shoes after being outside; shower and wash your hair before bed.

4. Crack down

Pollen rides into your home on your pet’s fur, too. Keep pets out of bedrooms.

5. Keep your nose clean

Wash pollen out of your nose with a daily nasal wash. Buy a kit at your local pharmacy, or make your own solution (1 cup distilled water; 1 teaspoon canning or Kosher salt; pinch baking soda). Use a commercial squeeze bottle, neti pot, or bulb syringe.

6. Wash up

Wash eyes with “artificial tear” eye drops; wash your contacts, too.

And when it comes to medicines, choose wisely.

7. Be nosy

Corticosteroid nasal sprays (prescription and over-the-counter, such as Flonase, Nasocort and Rhinocort) ease symptoms without making you sleepy. They treat nasal passages directly and work slowly over time.

8. Quick fix

First-generation (short-acting) antihistamines (like Benadryl and ChlorTrimeton) work quickly to stop the allergic reaction, but usually only last 3-4 hours. They also can make you sleepy.

9. Plan your day

Second-generation antihistamines (such as Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec), whether taken by mouth or nasal spray (prescription only), last longer and tend to be less sedating for most (but not all) people. These medicines work best when taken daily, beginning a week or so before your pollen season.

10. Spray sparingly

Decongestants, both oral and nasal spray, will reduce nasal swelling and congestion. Do not use decongestant sprays for more than a few days, as this can cause symptoms to actually get worse.

When prevention and over-the-counter treatments still leave you sniffing and uncomfortable—or when your allergies impact asthma, sinusitis, or other problems—it’s time to see a doctor. Maybe what you’re experiencing isn’t allergies at all.

Don’t waste time and money on shortcuts: Go straight to a board-certified allergist. Skin or blood tests won’t do the job alone. An allergy specialist will take a detailed medical and family history, discuss your symptoms, then use tests to confirm a diagnosis and put together a personalized treatment plan that will bring you closer to control.