Coughing, runny nose, and watering eyes are all signs of a variety of illnesses, but for many, these symptoms do not mean that they are sick, but that their allergies are acting up. Every year, over 50 million people in the United States suffer from some type of allergy. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the country.
Living with allergies is no picnic, and many people find day-to-day life to be a challenge. With so many people suffering from allergies, it makes sense that there are tried-and-true methods of dealing with them, that can help make life a little easier. Below are ten tips to help those living with allergies make it through their day.
1. Find Your Triggers
By the time you start to feel the familiar itch of an allergy attack in the back of your throat, you have already been exposed to your allergy trigger for long enough to suffer an attack. The best way to avoid this is to know what triggers your allergies in the first place. Once you know the trigger, you can be proactive about limiting your exposure to the allergen.
The most complete way to discover what you are allergic to is to see an allergist. They may perform a skin prick test, which involves inducing a controlled allergic response by pricking a person’s skin with a small amount of a wide range of possible allergens. Once the allergen is identified, the patient should avoid it as much as possible.
2. Know if it’s Allergies or a Cold
Many people may not know that they have an allergy, instead attributing their chronic symptoms to a cold that lasts for months. That is because allergies and colds share many of the same symptoms, making it easy to mistake one for the other. However, allergies are not caused by viruses nor are they contagious, making treating them a completely different process than treating a cold.
There are a few key ways that you can tell whether you are sick or have allergies. First, allergies never produce a fever, so if you find yourself running hot then you are not suffering from an allergy attack. Additionally, allergies are often accompanied by itchy and watering eyes, which is not the case for those who have a cold. However, the biggest sign of all that you have allergies and not a cold is how long the symptoms last.
A cold very rarely lasts longer than two weeks, whereas allergies are present so long as the allergen is present. People with seasonal allergies often report experiencing symptoms for six weeks or more at a time. Those who are allergic to dust mites, pet dander, or mold will find their symptoms get worse during winter, as their houses are locked up tight and no fresh air can circulate around the home. If you feel like you have had a cold all winter, you are likely suffering from allergies instead.
3. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
An allergy attack can make you feel really terrible, which is exacerbated when you live an unhealthy lifestyle. Things like eating a nutrient-rich diet, exercising regularly, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep, greatly minimize allergy symptoms. Taking steps to improve your overall lifestyle will help you stay ahead of the game when an allergy attack strikes.
Another important factor to consider addressing is your stress level. Stress can worsen allergy symptoms and make flare-ups more frequent. Managing stress effectively will help you keep allergy attacks to a minimum and make them less debilitating.
Some excellent stress management strategies include meditation, practicing deep breathing, regular exercise, asking for help, and keeping your schedule manageable. It is important for you to take time to rest and take part in enjoyable activities. Doing these things will keep high stress levels at bay.
4. Always Take Your Medication
There have been amazing advancements in medical treatment of allergies, including a variety of over-the-counter medications that are found easily at a local pharmacy. If you find that over-the-counter medications are not effective enough, an allergist can also prescribe several different medications that may help.
The most effective medications include antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroid nasal sprays. During an allergic reaction, your body produces a chemical called histamines. Antihistamines block the effects of this chemical, which will help relieve sneezing, itching, watery eyes, runny nose, and hives.
Decongestants reduce the swelling or blood vessels in your nasal passages, which relieves a stuffy nose. Corticosteroid nasal sprays can both treat and prevent inflammation in the nasal passages and an itchy, runny nose. For more long-term relief of allergy symptoms, those suffering from allergies can get an allergy shot.
5. Avoid Alcohol
Most people in the throes of an allergy attack do not turn to a glass of wine for relief, but some may find the effects calming. However, alcohol is likely to swell the soft tissues of certain parts of your body, including the nose and throat. Because of this, drinking alcohol while suffering from allergies can make them much worse.
In addition to making allergies worse, many of the treatments for allergy attacks list drowsiness as a potential side effect. If you combine alcohol with these medications, it will exacerbate the sedating effects, which may be dangerous.
6. Stay Inside if Necessary
Pollen is a common allergy trigger, but you are unlikely allergic to all kinds of pollen. More often than not, a person is allergic to a few types of pollen, making it important for them to be aware of when those particular pollens are most active. Watching the weather forecast for pollen activity is an excellent way to know how likely an allergy attack will be.
Limiting exposure to certain pollen triggers is easiest when you take measures to stay indoors during peak pollen activity. It is also beneficial to use HEPA air filters on your air conditioner to reduce the number of any airborne allergens indoors.
7. Use Home Remedies
While many medications are effective in treating allergies, there are many home remedies that provide relief, as well. Though many people insist that local honey helps prevent seasonal pollen-related allergies, there is no research that supports that claim. However, eating honey alone or in hot water or tea is an excellent treatment if you have a sore throat from post-nasal drip.
Another excellent home remedy to treat nasal congestion is ringing the nasal passages with saline spray or distilled water in a neti pot. These treatments can flush out allergens and moisturize the irritated soft tissue of the nasal passages, offering some nasal congestion relief.
8. Allergy-Proof Your Home
If you suffer from allergies all year, then there is likely an allergen in your home to blame. Taking steps to reduce the number of allergens indoors is the best way to reduce symptoms. Listed below are some suggestions for how to make this happen.
If you are allergic to dust mites, using dust mite covers for mattresses, box springs, and pillows is the best way to reduce allergen exposure. You should also wash bedding in hot water once a week and use synthetic fibers instead of wool or feathers.
If you suffer from allergies, you should be sure to keep windows closed as much as possible. Instead, rely on air conditioning with clean filters to keep air circulating throughout the house. It is important to clean any mold or moisture from condensation from windowsills and frames. Additionally, using AllergyGuard™ Window Shield on windows and doors will provide fresh air in the home while filtering out allergens and other air borne particals.
Upholstered furniture can house allergens and are difficult to clean. You should consider replacing these items with leather, vinyl, metal, wood, or plastic pieces of furniture, as these are easier to keep clean. Additionally, using a household allergen treatment on furniture, bedding, or pillows can help reduce the frequency and intensity of allergy attacks.
Ideally, those with allergies will replace any carpets in their home with linoleum, tile, or hardwood floors as carpets commonly harbor allergens and bacteria that can easily cause an allergy flare-up. However, if this is not an adoption, then regularly shampooing carpets and rugs can reduce the number of allergy attacks. Additionally, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter can remove allergens from the carpet without stirring them back into the air.
9. Shower at Night
Pollen has a tendency to stick to skin, hair, and clothing, making allergy attacks more frequent and more intense. Whenever coming in from being outdoors, you should try to remove any clothing exposed to pollen before sitting on any of the furniture in the house. Showering every night will help reduce the number of allergens on your skin and keep you from contaminating your bed.
10. Manage Pet Dander
Pet dander is a major allergen for many people, but that does not always keep them from owning one. If you have a pet that causes you to suffer allergy attacks, keeping them off of your bed and out of your room will help keep allergy flare-ups at bay. Brushing their fur regularly and washing your hands after petting them can also reduce the frequency of allergy attacks you experience.
Allergies are extremely common, but they are not something to be ignored. Untreated allergies can turn into asthma, bronchitis, or sinus infections. Using the tips above, you can limit the number and severity of allergy attacks from which you suffer.