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Eligibility

That's Eligible?! Allergy season isn't over for everyone

Compared to 2018, this year's allergy season has been a relative breeze. We haven't seen any horrifying videos of trees exploding with pollen. And most people have adjusted to the warmer air with minimal trouble.

But for many (including this author), allergies remain an ongoing problem, leading to coughing, sneezing and sore throat, well into the summer months. So, unless you choose to stay indoors all summer, we recommend facing allergies head on. And there are FSA-eligible products that can help you get ahead of these summer irritations.

Since Memorial Day is coming up this weekend, let's take a closer look at some items to make things a little easier once cookout season starts.

Steam inhalers

With so much warmth and humidity in the air each summer, it seems weird that anyone would want a machine that provides more warm, humid air. But the bottom line is that they're a huge help for alleviating summer allergy, cold and flu symptoms.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible steam inhalers for both adults and children that can help open nasal passages, and clear the nasty buildup that causes sore throats and stuffy heads, while also alleviating some of the pain that comes with them.

Hot and cold packs

Sometimes the best way to attack your allergy problems is from the outside in. Through simple hot or cold compresses (which come in a wide range of shapes and styles) people find all-natural relief from sinus headaches, nasal pressure and sore throat pain, just by holding them against the affected areas.

Pain and allergy medications

There's a huge range of allergy medications available that do a good job getting you through stuffy noses, sneezing, scratchy, dry throats and more. And when your sore throat moves beyond comfortable levels, standard pain medications usually do the trick for longer-term relief. To ease things a little more quickly, medicated throat lozenges can make a world of difference, too.

Please note: Pain relief medications and throat lozenges will require a prescription to be FSA-eligible. But our Rx Process isn't difficult at all, and if you find yourself using these products all season long, think of the savings your FSA can provide! Check out our complete Eligibility List to see if the products you need require a prescription.

Mattress and pillow covers

There's a chance your ongoing sore throat might actually be coming from inside your house. On top of pollen and other environmental allergens, dust mites also become a bigger problem during spring and summer months. No, it's not a comfortable topic, but these microscopic annoyances thrive in warmer summer weather, and can keep your allergy problems going well into fall.

Anti-allergy mattress and pillow covers put a barrier between you and the dust and germs beneath the surface, and help contain them, to help reduce your symptoms.

Allergies are a topic we cover quite a bit, because they continue to affect many people, long after the "season" ends. Thankfully, there are a lot of products available to make it easier on you all summer long.

If your symptoms don't improve or become more severe, speak with an allergist to ensure medications and treatments are right for your symptoms. To locate an allergist, visit the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website for a list of specialists near you.

Steam Inhalers

Steam inhalers provide pure, therapeutic, warm mist effectively free from germs, allergens, and pollutants.

Hot Packs

Hot packs provide long lasting therapeutic heat to relieve minor muscle aches.

Allergy Relief

From Over-the-Counter tablets to saline spray to nasal rinse, relief from allergies is right around the corner.

Throat Lozenges

Cold remedy throat lozenges will have you feeling better, sooner.


Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

Eligibility

That's Eligible?! Our first look at handling the fall cold and flu season

Okay, maybe the title was a little misleading -- for many people, cold and flu season is already here (or never went away). But for a lot of people, the fall is when symptoms start to pop up, with all sorts of new irritants to deal with, along with chillier weather. Thankfully, there's plenty your FSA can do to help get ahead of seasonal suffering.

It might seem a little early to discuss this (especially when the weather is still so warm). But those calendar pages can turn quickly. So, while it's easy to just say, "I'll refill my cold remedies and pain relievers when the season hits" it's always a good idea to be prepared -- especially if you're prone to these symptoms each year. Medications are perfectly good uses of your tax-free funds, there are plenty of ways to stay on top of cold and flu concerns with this money.

The "obvious" options

Those quotation marks are intentional. It's never good to assume things are "obvious" to everyone. And it's always good to remind FSA holders that commonly purchased cold remedies, alongside things like thermometers and humidifiers, are all eligible. This includes OTC medications, as long as you have an Rx for them.

Another "obvious" way to spend FSA dollars is by getting an annual flu shot. If you haven't already received the shot this year, go get that done -- we'll be here when you get back. The flu shot is considered a means of prevention to keep you from contracting the latest strains of the virus, making it qualify for FSA eligibility.

Go see your doctor

It can be tempting to just try to ride out a cold or even the flu. You don't feel that bad and think maybe a day or two of rest and lots of soup will do the trick. Or worse, you go ahead and decide to try to "plow through" the illness and carry on your usual activities from work to errands possibly spreading your bug around.

The costs and time needed for doctors' visits usual keep people from going for a simple cold or flu. Even if you have good coverage, the copays and other out-of-pocket costs are still a deterrent. With an FSA your copays and exams are all FSA-eligible.

We should also mention that a trip to the doctor is a good idea, even if you don't have cold and flu symptoms. Proactive, preventive checkups can go a long way toward keeping you healthy throughout the winter, so you can breathe a little easier - literally and figuratively.

It's just that easy?

FSAs are amazing, but they're not magic wands. Ideally, you'll get through the fall and winter with plenty of fresh air and restful sleep. And maybe you'll have a little good luck and not run into anyone coughing and sneezing right nearby. But it's good to know you have your FSA handy for when you (likely) do.

Cold-EEZE Cold Remedy Lozenges

Reduces the duration and severity of colds by nearly half.

Boogie Gentle Saline Nasal Mist

Soothe and clear nasal congestion while moisturizing nasal passages.

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Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

How to survive allergy season with contact lenses

When you're experiencing the worst of your seasonal allergy symptoms this spring, just imagine how much worse it could be if you were wearing contact lenses! This time of year is especially trying for contact lens wearers, as the American Optometric Association claims more than 75% of contact lens wearers complain of allergen-caused eye pain and irritation.

Allergy season calls for special tactics that contact lens wearers should practice throughout spring to control their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Before your local pollen count peaks, keep the following tips in mind.

  1. Switch to eyeglasses

During allergy season, contact lenses provide an additional surface for pollen, dust and other allergens to stick to, and they can be like sponges for these particles throughout the spring, reports VeryWell.com. Wearing eyeglasses, even on a part-time basis, can dramatically limit how many allergens your eyes come into contact with and can reduce irritation over the course of allergy season.

  1. Invest in rewetting drops

If you're sticking with your contacts throughout allergy season, investing in rewetting drops or artificial tears is a must. Not only will this help your eyes feel better, but they can also wash out allergens that may be present on the surface of your lenses. Best of all, if you are enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA), rewetting drops and other contact lens care products are FSA-eligible!

  1. Boost your cleaning regimen

Allergy season calls for a more rigorous cleaning routine, so make an effort to clean your lenses more often during the spring months to remove any lingering traces of allergens that may be present on the surface of the lenses. Consider full-scale disinfecting solutions for this time of year, and if you wear disposable lenses, replace them more often during the spring months to avoid irritation.

  1. Utilize cold compresses

One of the worst things you can do when experiencing eye irritation is to rub your eyes, as this will make the inflammation worse by spreading the allergens around your eyes. Instead, utilize cold compresses. A cool, damp towel or washcloth can work in a pinch, as well as FSA-eligible eye therapy masks that can be placed in the refrigerator and worn over the eyes when you're experiencing your worst symptoms.

This allergy season, make sure you're prepared by shopping at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!

Living Well

Is it asthma or allergies?

Spring allergy season brings its own set of challenges for allergy sufferers, but the season can be even more difficult for those with asthma as well. Many individuals are confused by asthma and allergy symptoms because they are so similar, and often these two conditions are directly related to one another.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, more than 25 million Americans with asthma also have allergies, which is called allergic asthma. This condition occurs when asthma symptoms are triggered by airborne substances, such as pollen, pet dander, mold and other allergens that are present in the surrounding environment.

But not all allergy sufferers have asthma and understanding the differences between these conditions is key to managing one's symptoms of either condition. Let's examine the key characteristics of asthma and allergies from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

Asthma

Asthma is an incurable condition in which breathing passages narrow and produce more mucous than normal, which can trigger breathing difficulties like wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Asthma can be triggered by a number of factors, but typically asthma is triggered by exercise, workplace irritants (dust, chemicals, gases) or allergens that are present in the environment.

Allergies

Allergies are a direct immune response after allergens enter or come into contact with the body and produce an allergic reaction. These allergic responses are caused by the body's natural ability to produce antibodies, which typically ward off foreign invaders and fight infections in the body. However, when an allergen (such as dust, pollen or pet dander) is introduced to the immune system, antibodies will recognize this as a potential threat (when it is actually harmless), and will trigger an immune system response that can manifest itself as sinus, digestive system, skin or respiratory issues.

How do these two conditions relate?

While allergies can trigger asthma symptoms, the primary difference between an allergic reaction and an asthma attack is where it occurs within the body, reports Health Guidance. Allergens trigger a response in the upper respiratory system, while asthma attacks affect the lungs and upper bronchial passages. In the case of allergic asthma, allergens are the primary driver of the triggering of asthma symptoms, which presents unique challenges from a treatment perspective.

As such, individuals who have both allergies and asthma will have to take more advanced steps to control their conditions and minimize their symptoms. The vast majority of medical treatments will treat either asthma or allergies, but some can also treat both conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include:

  • Allergy Shots: Regular allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy that helps to treat both asthma and allergy symptoms by gradually reducing the body's immune system response to particular allergy triggers. For this treatment to be effective, allergy shots are administered over a period of 3-5 years to ultimately diminish allergic and asthmatic reactions.
  • Anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) therapy: Coming into contact with an allergen will trigger an immune response in the body which consists of a release of antibodies to attack the allergen, which are referred to as lgE. This sparks the release of histamine, which causes an inflammatory effect in the body that results in allergic reactions. Medications such as omalizumab (Xonair) directly interferes with lgE in the body to help prevent histamine release and subsequent allergic reactions.
  • Leukotriene Modifiers: These medicines are used to control the symptoms of allergic rhinitis or allergies, as well as tackling asthma attacks as well. These drugs block the action of leukotrienes, which are chemicals released by the immune system that cause tightening of breathing passages and the production of excess mucous. The most common of these is Montelukast (Singulair).

This allergy season, make sure you're prepared for the worst by shopping for Allergy, Sinus & Combinations at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA/HSA eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!

Allergy Tablets

Get the relief you need from pesky allergies.


Living Well

5 ways to create an allergen-free home this spring

Spring is here in full swing, and if you suffer from seasonal allergies, this is a particularly trying time of year. High pollen counts will lead to runny noses, itchy eyes and sneezing throughout the early weeks of April as the seasonal bloom commences, and while you can't control the conditions outdoors, you can take the appropriate steps to make your home a haven from the allergic triggers outside!

Allergens in the home can exacerbate your symptoms or interfere with your sleep cycle, so it's important to take the necessary steps to keep your home clean this spring to keep your allergic symptoms under control. Here are a few great ideas to keep in mind from FSAstore.com.

  1. Change your "coming home" routine

Open windows are the primary culprit for allergens making their way into the home, but even if you keep them closed all spring, you can bring a large amount of pollen, dust and other irritants into your abode on your clothing. As allergy season gets underway, make conscious changes to your routine when you walk in the door.

First, remove all clothing and put it in the laundry machine if available to wash off all potential allergens. Also, make an effort to take a shower soon after coming indoors to wash off all pollen and particulates on your hair and skin that could be transferred to bedding and other surfaces in your home.

  1. Switch out your winter drapes

A smart change for seasonal allergy sufferers in spring is to switch out your winter drapes with lightweight curtains. Thick drapes with pleats are notorious for trapping dust and other allergens, so opt for blinds that can be wiped down quickly during the spring. Or as an alternative, opt for machine washable drapes that you can clean several times throughout the season to keep your home free of allergens.

  1. Invest in mattress and pillow allergy covers

In addition to the buildup of allergens on sleeping surfaces, dust mites also become increasingly prevalent during the spring months. Anti-allergy mattress and pillow covers are made with tightly-woven synthetic materials or vinyl to provide a barrier between the person and the dust mites on the underlying sleeping surface. These covers keep the allergens that have built up on the bedding from becoming airborne when shifting during sleep, which can dramatically reduce your allergic symptoms.

The difference in the cost of an allergy cover vs. a standard pillow/mattress cover may even be eligible for FSA reimbursement, so check with your benefits administrator before making a purchase!

  1. Carpeting vs. bare floors

Ideally, those who suffer from seasonal allergies will have bare floors in their home (hardwood, vinyl, etc.) that are easier to clean and do not retain as many allergens. However, if your home is carpeted, this will require extra care during allergy season. First, invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to trap allergens when cleaning, or look into a steam cleaning service that utilizes high temperature cleaning devices to remove allergens.

  1. Use a dehumidifier

The rainy, wet nature of spring lends itself to rapid mold growth, and you can make an effort to stem the growth of mold in your home by using a dehumidifier. Mold thrives in moist, humid environments that have a relative humidity above 60 percent, reports Allergy Consumer Review. In areas where mold growth is prevalent, run a dehumidifier to lower the humidity to 50 percent where mold growth will become inactive.

This allergy season, control your symptoms with Allergy, Sinus and Combinations and other anti-allergy products from FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits.

Simply Saline Sterile Saline Nasal Mist

Moisturize your nasal passages while clearing out congestion.

Living Well

What is a pollen count?

Allergy sufferers have learned to dread the early weeks of spring. Everywhere you turn, there is a yellow-green film of pollen on cars, glass and other outdoor surfaces that can trigger watery eyes, sneezing and sniffling all day long.

Before you walk out the door each morning, you may have gotten in the habit of checking the pollen count in your area so you can prepare for your worst allergy symptoms. But have you ever wondered how these numbers are measured and what they really mean? Let's examine what you should know about pollen counts as spring kicks off!

How are pollen counts measured?

Pollen counts are fixtures of weather reports in the spring and summer, and this number is taken using a sampling system called a "rotorod." According to Pollen.com, this rod consists of an array of silicone grease coated clear rods that are exposed to the air at key points throughout the day. These rods are then stained or examined under a microscope to measure the concentration of pollen grains, which are then converted to a concentration that is measured in grains per cubic meter of air.

Pollen counts are typically measured on a scale of 0-12 that take into account the amount of pollen an allergy sufferer will be exposed to during a given day. Low pollen levels come in at 0-2.4, Low-Medium is 2.5-4.8, Medium is 4.9-7.2, High-Medium is 7.3-9.6, and High is 9.7-12.0. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, these rotorods must be placed on a rooftop at least one story high, as well as away from any significant pollen or mold sources that could skew the results.

How to stay on top of pollen counts

While increasing numbers of local and national television news stations have begun reporting pollen counts with their traditional forecasts, allergy sufferers should take the initiative in early spring to stay on top of pollen forecasts. Here are a few free apps to keep in mind:

  • Weather.com App: The Weather Channel's app is already one of the most popular weather apps available, but it also has the option of setting up pollen alerts that can be sent to your device via text or email.
  • Pollen.com Allergy Alert: The Pollen.com Allergy Alert app will provide information and alerts about pollen forecasts in your zip code. This app has the added benefit of in-depth information about top allergens with detailed plant descriptions and images in your area.
  • AllergyManager: In addition to measuring pollen counts in your area, the AllergyManager app lets you track seasonal allergens, pollen counts, and the severity of your symptoms. As an added benefit, the app also has a medication refill reminder to ensure that you can stay on top of your allergy medicine purchases.
  • Zyrtec AllergyCast: This is among the most popular allergy tracking apps available that provides pollen and weather forecasts, notifications for high pollen levels, as well as indicators for which types of pollen are prevalent at the moment, and actionable tips on how to deal with them.

Last but not least, rely on FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com to purchase allergy, sinus and combinations, Neti pots, saline solution and everything you need to survive allergy season! Explore the web's largest selection of FSA/HSA-eligible products and maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!

Neti Pot and Supplies

An all-natural way to immediately relieve congestion and sinus symptoms.

Allergy Relief

From allergy tablets to lozenges to saline spray, get the allergy relief you need with your FSA.

Living Well

5 anti-allergy life hacks to get you through spring

Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? If so, then you know that the first several weeks of spring can be the most trying time for allergy sufferers. As trees bud, flowers bloom, and grass begins to germinate, pollen levels will soar and simply stepping outdoors can trigger watery eyes, a runny nose and a day's worth of sneezing fits.

While over-the-counter allergy medicines like antihistamines and decongestants are a great start to curb your allergy symptoms, there are a number of simple tricks to keep up your sleeve for those days when allergic reactions are at their worst. Here are a few anti-allergy life hacks to keep in mind before allergens are at their peak.

  1. Eat local honey

One of the oldest natural allergy remedies is the ingestion of local honey, which acts as a type of natural vaccination against seasonal allergies. Local honey contains a variety of the same pollen spores that are present when flowers and grasses bloom in your area, and introducing these spores in small amounts to the body can build up its natural immunity. This can limit the body's immune response of histamine production when exposed to allergens, and this daily dose of honey could be an effective means of controlling your symptoms this allergy season.

  1. Practice saltwater irrigation

Salt water irrigation through the use of Neti pots is one of the best natural remedies to alleviate allergy symptoms. These devices are used by millions of Americans to treat sinus problems, provide relief from nasal congestion in the event of a cold or virus, or to clear out breathing passages during the height of allergy season.

Neti pots utilize a nasal saline solution that mixes salt and warm water to thin nasal secretions and flush out bacteria/allergens/environmental irritants to help curb seasonal allergy symptoms. Aim to use saltwater irrigation twice a day during allergy season.

  1. Indulge in sushi

If you're contending with allergy symptoms in the early spring, stop into a sushi restaurant and ask for extra wasabi! This pungent green paste is already great for opening up your nasal passages and helping you breathe more easily, but it also fights inflammation naturally. Ingestion of wasabi can limit the body's production of histamine and can reduce the effects of seasonal allergy symptoms.

  1. Enjoy some green tea

When allergy season kicks off, make the switch to green tea each morning to provide your immune system with a boost against allergens. Green tea contains natural antihistamines to combat the body's immune response to the presence of allergens, and it can be a great addition to your spring diet to combat sneezing and nasal congestion.

  1. Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water throughout the day supports a wide range of physiological functions, and this holds special significance for those who suffer from seasonal allergies. Being dehydrated sparks the release of histamine in the body to prevent future water loss, which can contribute to the worsening of allergy symptoms. Make an effort to increase your water consumption in the early spring to lessen the severity of allergy symptoms.

This allergy season, make sure you're ready with FSA eligible Allergy, Sinus & Combinations at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA eligible items to help you maximize the potential of your employee benefits.

SinuCleanse Neti Pot

An all-natural way to immediately relieve congestion and sinus symptoms.

Claritin 24 Hour Non Drowsy Allergy Relief

Enjoy 24 hours of relief from itchy watery eyes as well as sneezing and an itchy throat.