Keep Your Allergies at Bay

More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. Many have seasonal allergies while others experience year-round sniffling, wheezing, coughing or itching due to exposure to household or environmental allergens.

'Tis the Season
People with seasonal allergies typically suffer from allergic rhinitis, or "hay fever." This type of allergy is often triggered by pollens: tree pollen in the spring, grass pollen in the spring and summer, and then ragweed or other weed pollens in the fall.

When people with hay fever inhale allergens , those allergens combine with an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The combination of the allergen and IgE makes the body release chemicals, such as histamine, as it tries to fight off the allergen. It's these chemicals that result in nasal congestion, watery eyes, sneezing, itching and even headaches.

What can you do to reduce your hay fever misery? The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology offers these tips:

• Keep outdoor activities to a minimum between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. when pollen is usually emitted by trees and plants. Stay indoors when pollen counts are high and on windy days.
• Keep windows closed to prevent pollen from drifting into your home.
• Use an air conditioner and dehumidifier to keep air clean, cool and dry.
• Don't hang your bedding or clothes outdoors to dry. They may collect pollen. After spending time outdoors, leave your shoes outside to avoid tracking pollen inside your home.
• If you mow the lawn, wear a mask designed to filter pollen.

Year-Long Sneezing and Wheezing
People who suffer from chronic allergies are usually allergic to dust mites, mold or pet dander. The offending allergen(s) can usually be identified through allergy tests performed by your physician or allergy specialist. These tests involve either a gentle prick through a drop of allergen extract on the surface of your arm, called a skin-prick test, or the injection of allergen extract into the skin, called an intracutaneous test. If swelling and reddening occurs, it's usually an indication that you have an allergy.

Dusting Off Dust Mites
Dust mites are microscopic organisms that eat skin flakes that naturally shed off our bodies. They live where there is abundant food, moisture and warmth – that's why they thrive in mattresses, pillows, bedding, upholstered furniture, carpets and even clothes. Much of the dust in these articles is actually excrement from these dust mites. When you inhale the dust you are inhaling the mite droppings as well and this irritates your nose and lungs.

• To decrease your exposure to dust mites and thus reduce allergy symptoms:
• Get special mite-resistant covers that encase your mattress, box spring and pillowcases.
• Wash all bedding in hot water (over 130 degrees) once a week to kill dust mites.
• Decrease clutter to make your home a dust mite free sanctuary.
• Use window blinds that can be wiped clean rather than curtains.
• Remove carpeting, if possible.
• Do not use humidifiers. Since dust mites are moisture-loving insects, the more humid the environment, the more dust mites – and mold.

Moisture Means Mold
Mold, another common allergen that thrives in a moist environment, typically grows in bathrooms, basements, around windowsills and moist pipes and even in potted plants. To control mold, keep your home on the dry side and bleach your bathrooms at least once a week to kill the mold.

When Your Allergy is Your Pet
Most people with allergies to pets think they are allergic to the animal's dander, or skin flakes. This is only half true. The offending allergen is actually a protein found in the saliva that is deposited on the skin when the cat or dog licks itself. The saliva dries on the skin and, when the skin flakes off, the dander become airborne and can be easily inhaled.

If you're allergic to your pet – and absolutely cannot part with it – then it's important to take precautions to decrease your exposure to saliva antigens. Keeping your pet out of your bedroom and washing him or her weekly should help.

Easing Your Sneezing
While over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications can help you cope with your allergy symptoms, they often produce side effects such as drowsiness. Fortunately, when God created the plant kingdom he also created herbs that are very effective in combating or preventing allergy symptoms without the unwanted side effects associated with drugs. Nettle leaf and an herb from India called tinospora, for example, have been shown in clinical trials to reduce the symptoms associated with allergies. And some nutrient constituents of herbs, like vitamin C and the flavonoid, quercetin, have been found to act as natural antihistamines.

A daily supplement program that includes these herbs and nutrients, like my Histamet formula, along with a few lifestyle adjustments, can keep your allergies at bay so that they don't control your life – or your breathing!