Saturday, October 6, 2012

Allergy Survival Guide

Monika pis, PhD, CPNP

The incidence of allergic disease has grown tremendously in the past years. Allergic rhinitis affects about 20 percent of the U.S. population and results in a decreased quality of life.

Allergic rhinitis is a combination of sneezing, congestion, nasal itching, and runny nose. These are caused by inflammation resulting from the contact with allergens (i.e. pollen, mold, dust mites, animal dander or saliva, as well as chemicals found in medications, beauty products, or food). In addition, some people are prone to experiencing systemic symptoms in response to allergen exposure. They may be overly fatigued and sleepy.

With moldy leaves on the ground and ragweed in the air, you might need to take certain steps to improve your quality of life if you are among seasonal allergic rhinitis sufferers. Here are some helpful tips:
  •  If you are allergic to ragweed, track the pollen count in your area. You may call the National Allergy Bureau at (800)-9-POLLEN, or reach it through the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology website: It will give you the pollen count for your region. 
  • Avoid the peak pollen count times of the early morning between 5-10 a.m. 
  • Ragweed pollen count is highest on hot, dry, and windy days. If you can, stay indoors on such days with your air conditioner on.
  • Keep car windows closed when driving.
  • Leave lawn mowing or leaf raking to someone else, but if you have to do yard work yourself, wear a mask.
  • Do not forget that pets can carry pollen on their fur, so give your Fido a bath after coming home from a walk.
  •  If you venture outside, change your clothes and consider a shower upon returning home (pollen likes to stick to hair!) 
  • Avoid damp places or walking on rainy days, as moisture promotes mold growth.

Another thing to consider is the fact that with the cooler weather, you and your family will tend to stay inside more so than during summertime. Remember to keep indoor allergens under control to prevent or minimize your allergy flare-ups:

  • Change furnace filters monthly.
  • Install a filter over bedroom air vents to prevent animal dander and mold from being blown in from other parts of the house.
  • Use window shades or curtains that can be washed more often than drapes.
  • Minimize the number of plants in the house (wet soil promotes mold growth).
  • Vacuum carpeted floors every other day to keep dust to minimum (use a HEPA vacuum filter to collect dust and dust mites).
  • Using an air conditioner on hot/humid days will keep pollen and mold spores outside.
  • Keep in mind that mold likes to grow in the shower, so regularly clean it in with a bleach solution. 

If allergy symptoms strike despite your efforts to control your and your family’s exposure to allergens, there are more options to ease your suffering. 

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