Five Things You May Be Doing That Worsen Spring Allergies
With experts predicting that the 2012 allergy season may be the worst of the decade, anything an allergy sufferer can do to relieve symptoms will be essential. In fact, you may be unwittingly doing things to make your seasonal allergies worse. Dr. Myron Zitt MD, the past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, suggests five areas of your life to look at if you are one of the 35 million Americans who suffer.
The mild winter with temperatures on average six degrees warmer than usual has caused many plants to bloom early, notes Dr. Stanley Fineman, the current president of the ACAAI. This year’s pollen count has increased to double digits much earlier than last with some reaching as high as 250.
Obviously, prevention is key for managing seasonal allergies. Monitor pollen counts through The Weather Channel’s website, Pollen.com, or local news reports. When counts are high, it is best to stay indoors if possible, especially during the peak hours between 5 am and 10 am.
Medications are also helpful, but don’t self-medicate, says Dr. Zitt. See an allergist to find out exactly what your allergen triggers are and the best medication to take for your individual situation. If you do not have an allergist currently, visit www.allergyandasthmarelief.org (a service of the ACAAI) to find one near you.
When you are given a prescription for an allergy medication or a suggestion for an over-the-counter drug, do not procrastinate taking it. Dr. Zitt suggests taking the medication even before the season starts to prevent sneezing and stuffiness.
Do you like to open your windows in the spring to let in the warm air? Not a good idea if you suffer from seasonal allergies. When the windows are open, pollen can drift inside, settle into the carpet and furniture, and continue to cause symptoms. Remember that pollen can also enter your car windows while you are out and about and settle into the upholstery.
Spring is a good time to check your air filter as well. If you are using an inexpensive central furnace/air-conditioning filter, you probably aren’t getting much relief. Look for either a HEPA room air cleaner rated with a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) for the size room you are using it in or (for central air cleaning), use a furnace filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 12. Remember to change filters regularly for the most benefit.
Don’t fall for specialized “ionic air filters.” These provide only minimal benefit, and can actually be harmful. They could release ions which can be an irritant.
If you are still being tortured with seasonal allergy symptoms, one more area of your life to look at would be your diet. Fruits and vegetables, while very good for your overall health, could be one culprit. Dr. Zitt notes that many people with seasonal allergies also suffer from “pollen food allergy syndrome” or “oral allergy syndrome.” This is a cross-reaction between the similar proteins in certain types of produce and the allergy-causing pollen. One in five grass-allergic people and about 70% of people with birch allergies suffer from the condition.
Beware of celery, cherries or apples if you are allergic to birch or alder trees. If you have grass allergies, pay attention when eating tomatoes, potatoes or peaches to see if they cause a reaction. Those allergic to weed pollen, especially ragweed, should avoid melon, banana, cucumber and sunflower seeds.
But keep in mind that you do not necessarily have to bypass these foods all together. Raw foods may cause symptoms while cooked, peeled, or canned may not.
Here’s to hoping you don’t suffer needlessly from your seasonal allergies this Spring.