Seasonal allergies affect more than 60 million people each year, and that number is on the rise. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America , rising temperatures caused by climate change have lead to longer allergy seasons and poorer air quality. These longer seasons are causing more people to experience allergies and asthma attacks more often.
Thanks to advances in medical technology, however, there are effective treatments available. In fact, immunotherapy can reduce allergy symptoms in about 85% of people with allergic rhinitis or seasonal allergies. Immunotherapy involves exposing people to larger and larger amounts of allergen in an attempt to change the immune system’s response.
Beyond medical treatment, there are things you can do at home to help ease the burden of your seasonal allergies, like regular dusting, showering after being outside and inspecting your home for mold or mildew.
Ten surprising things that can worsen seasonal allergies
When you’re struggling with symptoms of seasonal allergies like itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose and persistent cough your top priority is to feel better, fast. That typically looks like taking an antihistamine and laying low on high-pollen days to alleviate the most obtrusive symptoms. But did you know there are hidden, everyday habits that could be exacerbating your symptoms? Here are 10 surprising things that’ll make you say, “Wait, what?” because they might be making your allergy symptoms worse:
- Your produce
An apple a day doesn’t always keep the doctor away. It’s true. Some fruits and vegetables contain proteins similar to those found in pollen, which can confuse your immune system. In fact, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology , as many as 75% of those allergic to birch tree pollen may become itchy after eating celery or apples. Likewise, someone who is allergic to ragweed may have a similar reaction to bananas or cantaloupe. This phenomenon is referred to as cross-reactivity.
- Your morning run
Pollen counts are significantly higher before noon, so your morning run could be bringing home the pollen and making you feel worse. If you can, reschedule outdoor activity and exercise until later in the day. If you can’t, kick off your shoes at the door to avoid tracking pollen inside your house and change out of your gear as soon as you return home. Taking a shower and washing your hair can also help remove pollen from your skin and hair.
- Your duster
If you’re using a dry cloth or feather duster to clean your home, you could be spreading dust mites and dander around. Try using a damp cloth instead. The liquid inside the cloth introduces capillary forces, which will actually draw the dust, mist mites and dander into the cloth and keep it out of your air. You can then wipe away any excess water on your furniture with a dry cloth.
Beer, wine and liquor contain histamines, which are produced by yeast and bacteria during the fermentation process. Histamine is the chemical that causes allergy symptoms. Wine and beer also contain sulfites, which are also known to provoke allergy-like symptoms. While it’s best to limit or avoid alcohol for general health and wellness, if you do choose to have an adult beverage, tequila, plain vodka and gin are lower in histamine than other liquors.
- Skipping your exercise routine
When you’re struggling with seasonal allergies, it’s easy to put your daily exercise routine on the back burner. But taking time to exercise can actually help you feel better. When you exercise, your body releases stress hormones, which causes the blood vessels in your nose to tighten so you can actually breathe better. Though temporary, exercise can give you a much-needed break from congestion (as well as its many other benefits.
- Your contact lenses
Contacts can trap pollen and dust against your eyes, making allergy symptoms worse. If itchy, watery eyes are making you miserable, try swapping your contacts for glasses on high-pollen days. If you are using a general, multi-purpose contact lens solution, talk to your ophthalmologist about switching to a peroxide-based disinfecting solution like ClearCare or Aosept. These systems, though a bit more complicated to use, are much better at completely removing all debris from the surface of the lens.
- Your humidifier
Humidifiers are a terrific tool for allergy sufferers. Not only do they help increase the humidity and purify the air, but they also help remove larger pathogens (e.g., bacteria and viruses) and irritants (e.g., pollen, dust and mold spores). However, the reservoir is a welcome environment and breeding ground for mold and bacteria so it’s important to clean It at least once a week. The best way to clean a humidifier is to fill the base with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of white vinegar and let it sit for 1 hour. Vinegar is a natural cleanser and disinfectant that will help loosen any residue.
- Swimming pools
Chlorine dries out your skin and irritates your respiratory tract (e.g., nose, throat and lungs), which exacerbates allergy symptoms like itchy skin, coughing and congestion. However, swimming for exercise has many health benefits, so just be prepared. You can wear goggles to protect your eyes from irritants and shower as soon as you get out.
- Skipping your morning coffee
This is great news for coffee lovers. Your morning cup of Joe actually helps reduce the release of histamine from your mast cells. (Mast cells are your first line of defense against allergens.) It’s actually the caffeine in the coffee that makes it happen. Caffeine helps slow your body’s histamine production, which helps your symptoms subside.
Decongestants can help alleviate a stuffy nose, but only for the first few days. If you use these medicines longer than the recommended number of days, they can actually have the opposite effect, which is a condition called rebound congestion. Rebound congestion is a constant nasal stuffiness that develops as a result of overusing decongestant medicines. To prevent rebound congestion, decongestant nasal sprays should be used for no more than three days in a row (with as few doses as possible each day).
If you’ve been struggling with symptoms that seem like a cold, but have been lingering for more than 7-10 days, it’s time to talk to your doctor about seasonal allergies. Coastal Urgent Care of Houma is open for walk-in appointments 7 days a week from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.