When you’re in the midst of an allergy attack, it can feel like your body is rebelling against you-and, in a way, it is. Let’s discuss some ways for how to relieve allergy symptoms.
Allergies are the result of an immune system run amok, and they develop when your immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance, such as pollen, cat dander, or dust.
About one in five Americans is plagued by sneezing, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, itchy eyes, hives, and rashes, which are all hallmarks of allergies.
Allergies come in almost infinite variety. But most triggers, called allergens, stimulate the immune system through basic routes: ingestion (eating peanuts or shrimp, for example), injection (such as getting peanuts or shrimp, for example), injection (such as getting a penicillin shot), absorption through the skin (touching poison ivy), and inhalation (breathing in cat dander).
Inhalant allergies are the most common because the triggers-including house dust, pollen, pet dander, and mold-are hard to escape.
One of the most annoying? House dust. “You find a bit of everything in house dust,” says Thomas Platts-Mills, head of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. “Different people are allergic to different things pieces of cockroach are pretty potent, actually-but the single biggest cause of problems is the dust mite.”
The dust mite is an almost microscopic relative of ticks and spiders. But living mites are not the problem. People react, instead, to the fecal material that mites expel on carpets, bedding, and upholstered furniture. The bodies of dead mites also trigger allergies.
Another common trigger, the cockroach, is pervasive. ‘‘Although most species of cockroaches live in the tropics, they are also found in North America, particularly in homes in large cities.” Says David Lang, MD, head of the Section of Allergy/Immunology at Cleveland Clinic’s Respiratory Institute.
Not surprisingly, cockroach allergen is most abundant in kitchen areas where there is food debris.
Airborne allergens are hard to escape. Pollen fills the air in almost every region with seasonal regularity, and mold grows wherever it’s dark and humid-under carpets, in dank basements, and in leaky garages and storage sheds.
And with millions of dogs and cats in America, it’s not easy to escape pet dander either. If you’re sensitive to any of these allergens, contact with them will trigger a sneezing, wheezing, itchy reaction.
How to relieve allergy symptoms?
Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to help minimize the misery. To start, try the doctor-tested tips that follow.
1. Air-condition your house (and car)
This is probably the single most important thing you can do to alleviate pollen problems and it can help with two other chief inhalants: mold and dust mites. The basic idea is to create an oasis of sorts, says Richard Podell, MD, a clinical professor in the Department of Family medicine at the university of medicine and dentistry of New Jerseys, Robert wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway.
You want your home to be a place of sanctuary, a place you can count on to provide an escape, although air conditioners also keep humidity low which discourages mites and mold, it is the sealing of the house that provides the real benefit Dr. Podell says. If you have the windows open the inside of your house or car is essentially the same (pollen-filled, allergy-triggering) environment as outside.
2. Install an air filter
HEPA (high –energy particulate- arresting) filters are an efficient way to keep the air clean in your home, and they can bring relief from pollen, mold, and pet dander. When you use an air filter in any room remember to keep the door closed to reduce the overall volume of air that the machine is trying to clean.
One thing to note: Air filters are not of much use against dust mites because the dead mites float in the air for only a few minutes before falling and that is not long enough for the filter to draw them in. To deal with those pesky little buggers, you should.
3. Dehumidify your home
Keeping the air in your home dry will help put a stop to the dust mite problems. Dust mite does not thrive in humidity below about 45%says Dr. Platts Mills Generally the drier, the better. Remember to empty the dehumidifier water often and clean it regularly to prevent mold.
4. Dust your home the right way
People with allergies fare better when dust and grime are kept to a minimum. But dusting with a dry cloth which just propels allergens into the air, is pointless. Instead, regularly wipe down hard surfaces and floor with a slightly damp cloth. Try not to use aerosol sprays or products containing harsh chemicals or odors – many of these products can trigger allergy symptoms as well.
If you live in a humid area dampen the cost with a solution of ¾ cup of bleach in a gallon of water then wipe down surfaces with the solution let it stand for 5 minutes, then wipe again with regular water. Bleach kills mold and unlike some other (potentially dangerous) chemicals, you can get it at the grocery store.
5. Turn up the heat on laundry day
Linens should be washed in water that’s at least 103°F to rid them of dust mites and their wastes-and you may need to set your water heater higher to reach that temp. To test your machine’s water temperature, set the cycle to hot, stop the washer once the machine is filled, and dip a meat thermometer into the water (this works only for top-loading machines, obviously).
If you’re worried about scalding or your machine doesn’t reach that temperature, consider taking your bedding to a professional laundry service and requesting a high-temperature wash.
6. Use protection
Don a mask when you’re doing anything that’s likely to expose you to a problem allergen. You may feel silly doing it, but you’ll be glad you did! Simple chores like vacuuming can throw huge quantities of dust and contaminants into the air, says Dr. Lang.
Similarly, gardening can expose you to huge volumes of pollen. A small mask that covers your nose and mouth, known professionally as a dust and mist respirator, can keep the pollen from reaching your lungs.
7. Skip the fuzz underfoot
Wall to wall carpet may look nice, but it makes an almost perfect home for dust mites and mold. Plus, it attracts and holds pollen and pet dander. Even steam cleaning regularly probably won’t allergen-free. “Steam isn’t hot enough to kill the mites,” says Dr. Platts-Mills. All the process really does is make your carpets warmer and wetter underneath-an ideal mold. Instead, consider tile or hardwood floors topped with throw rugs.
8. Make your bed a safe haven
Encase your pillows, mattress, and box spring in allergy covers with a fabric weave of 10 microns, which is tight enough to keep out dust mite allergens. Check americanallergy.com and stopallergy.com for options.
9. Is your pet a problem?
The furry friends in American homes can worsen-and in many cases, cause-allergies. Cat dander is the most problematic, but dogs birds, rabbits, horses, and other pets with hair or fur can also stir up allergic reactions.
Even “allergen-free” pets are more hype than hope, experts say. Because pet allergens may linger in upholstered couches and chairs, wallpaper, and other areas for several months, professional cleaning may be in order. If you cannot bear to be without a pet, wash your cat or dog frequently; evidence suggests this may reduce its level of allergens.
10. Herbal Allergy Relief
For an all-natural alternative to OTC Allergy MEDS, look to common or stinging nettle
A study in Portland, OR, found that freeze-dried extract of the stinging (common) nettle was better than a placebo at improving symptoms of rhinitis, an inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose that can be brought on by allergies. The reason it works?
The plant’s naturally occurring histamines attach to histamine receptor sites in your cells, preventing your body’s own histamines (released during an allergic reaction) from attaching and causing symptoms, explains Stanley W. Beyrle, a naturopathic doctor in Wichita, KS.
Look for nettle tinctures, capsules, or the dried root, which you can use to brew nettle tea. Take a dose a day to help al-levitate symptoms.
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