Have you ever had allergy in your life time? If the answer is yes, you know how unpleasant and uncomfortable it is to have an itchy skin, running nose or watery eyes. Studies suggest that more than 50 million Americans have allergies, and more than half (54.6%) of all adults and children test positive to one or more allergens. Furthermore, allergy is 6th leading cause of chronic diseases in US and the socio-economic burden is around 18 billion dollar annually to health care system.
The best defense to stay away from allergies is to avoid the allergens that cause symptoms. You can take precaution, but it is extremely difficult to avoid allergens, until and unless you want to be quarantined. Let us look at tips that you can follow to reduce exposure towards allergens and thereby can reduce the associated allergies in your life.
An allergy occurs when you have abnormally high sensitivity to a normally harmless substance, causing your immune system to overreact to chemicals, food and environmental factors.
There are different phases of allergy depending upon the time after exposure to allergy causing substances. Allergy can appear within 15 minutes to 1 hour after the exposure, known as early phase of allergy. Allergy can appear between 8 – 24 hours, due to delayed reactions, known as late phase of allergy.
What are the major allergy causing substances?
Allergy causing substances are known as allergens. Major environmental allergens are dust, molds, pollen, cigarette smoke, pesticides, dander, dust mites, perfumes, scented cleaning materials or markers, deodorants, disinfectants, synthetic carpets, chemicals in new mattresses.
The most common pollens causing allergies include: tree pollens (April – May), grasses (June – July) and ragweed (August – October).
How can allergies be avoided?
Limit outdoor activity: If you are allergic to the pollen grains, you should avoid or minimize going outside during high pollen count and windy days. You can in fact check the pollen count daily in news, and on websites such as American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Note that, in general, pollen peak time is in the morning 5 a.m. -10 a.m.
Keep your doors and windows closed: To reduce exposure from pollen you should stay indoor with all windows closed. Keeping doors and windows closed even during riding in a vehicle can help prevent pollens and outdoor molds from entering, which can even worsen the allergies by 200%.
Choose low pollen surroundings: To stay away from allergy avoid areas that are known for having loads of pollen grains. Choose low pollen areas like beach or ocean and spend time there during high pollen season in the spring.
Clean Yourself: If you need to be outside for awhile, make sure you take shower, wash your face and hair as soon as you come inside your house. Also, change and wash your clothes that you wore while you were out, as pollens stick easily to clothes and body surfaces and can irritate you after sometime.
Cover your body: To protect yourself from allergic reactions caused by bug and insect bites, wear long sleeves top, pants, and shoes with socks.
Keep pets away: Pets like to play outside and may carry load of allergens in your house. Allergy sufferers are recommended to keep pet off from beds and linens; in fact, out of the bedroom to reduce allergy exposure. Brush pets outside to remove loose hair and dander, and wash them minimum once in a week to reduce the spread of allergens.
Check humidity: Clean humid areas of home such as the bathroom and basement. It is recommended to keep indoor humidity level lower than 50%. You can use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity and measure humidity level through hygrometer. Excessive moisture provides favorable environment to grow molds that can produce allergens, irritants, and potentially some toxic substances.
Keep flooring dust-free: Allergy experts recommend using throw rugs instead of carpet so that it can be cleaned easily. If it is not possible to remove carpets as few people really like carpeting, then professional deep cleaning may be your next best choice. You can also keep hardwood flooring which is much easier to clean than carpet, and can keep allergens to a minimum.
Hang clothes inside: Pollen can easily set down and accumulate on the clothes hanging outside, so avoid drying your clothes and sheets outside. Washing clothes at a higher temperature (more than 100 F) can reduce dust mites, which is the most common cause of allergy symptoms.
Avoid perfume: Avoid wearing perfumes as it invites insects.
Improve air quality: Keep home windows closed and clean air filters frequently as possible. Heating and AC systems can filter out a lot of allergens if you change the filter on regular basis, preferably each month. Also, it is recommended to clean your air ducts once a year. You can also choose to use air purifier with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air filter) technology that filters the air to remove dust that’s freely floating in the air.
Allergy and allergic diseases are on a rise, globally. Organizations such as World Allergy Organization (WAO), have taken a lead in addressing this global problem, by promoting the science of allergy and clinical immunology and advancing exchange of information. A recent report by WAO addresses allergy and chronic disease on global level – 2008 Report.
As of today, it is difficult to fully treat allergies but it can be prevented by reducing exposure to allergens. Hopefully you would get benefitted by the common but successful tips to reduce allergen exposure. In the case your allergy persists make sure to consult with your doctor.