Fruits and veggies, air filters, spring breezes, procrastination and self-medication – each can delay relief from a stuffy nose, sneezing, sniffling or other symptoms if you’re one of the more than 35 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies.
“People with spring allergies often don’t realize how many things can aggravate their allergy symptoms so they just muddle along and hope for an early end to the season,” said Dr. Steven McEldowney of Allergy and Asthma Care of Blakeney. “But there’s no reason to suffer. A few simple adjustments in habits and treatment can make springtime much more enjoyable.”
Dr. McEldowney, a specialist in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) alert people with spring allergies to be on the lookout for these five things that can aggravate suffering.
- Snacking on fruits and veggies – Many people with seasonal allergies also suffer from pollen food allergy syndrome (also called oral allergy syndrome), a cross-reaction between the similar proteins in certain types of fruits, vegetables (and some nuts) and the allergy-causing pollen. One in five people with grass allergies and as many as 70 percent of people with birch tree allergies suffer from the condition, which can make your lips tingle and swell and your mouth itch. The trick is to determine which problematic produce is causing your symptoms and then avoid eating it, (although you might be able to eat it if it’s peeled, cooked or canned). If you’re allergic to birch or alder trees, you might have a reaction to celery, cherries or apples. If you have grass allergies, tomatoes, potatoes or peaches may bother you. Usually the reaction is simply annoying and doesn’t last long. But up to 9 percent of people have reactions that affect a part of their body beyond their mouth and 1.7 percent can suffer a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock. If you’ve had a systemic reaction, you should see an allergist and ask whether you should carry injectable epinephrine.
- Using the wrong air filter – Using an air filter to keep your home pollen-free is a good idea, but be sure it’s the right kind. Studies show inexpensive central furnace/air conditioning filters and ionic electrostatic room cleaners aren’t helpful – and in fact the latter releases ions, which can be an irritant. Whole-house filtration systems do work, but change the filters regularly or you could be doing more harm than good.
- Opening your windows – When your windows are open, the pollen can drift inside, settle into your carpet, furniture and car upholstery and continue to torture you. So keep your house and car windows shut during allergy season.
- Procrastinating – You may think you can put off or even do without medication this spring, but the next thing you know you’re stuffed up, sneezing and downright miserable. Instead, get the jump on allergies by taking your medication before the season gets under way.
- Self medicating – Perhaps you’re not sure exactly what’s making you feel awful so you switch from one medication to the next hoping for relief. Your best bet is to see an allergist, who can determine just what’s triggering your symptoms and suggest treatment. You might even benefit from allergy shots (immunotherapy), which can stop the suffering altogether.