If spring hasn't arrived yet where you live, then it's is just around the corner – and that means allergy season is as well.
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. Here are some ways to avoid the most common allergy triggers.
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. To reduce your exposure:
• Keep outdoor activities to a minimum between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. when pollen is usually released 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 where 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.
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.
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.
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.
Even if you follow all of the advice above, it is hard to completely avoid allergens. When your allergies act up, there are ways to help you cope with the symptoms. While over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications are one option, 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. The next article in our Allergy series will take a look at these various herbs and nutrients in detail.