Understanding Your Allergies – Symptoms and Triggers

Introduction

Well baby boomer… Are you ready for this spring’s allergy season? It is estimated that nearly 20% of adults suffer with allergies and that makes for a heck of a lot of baby boomers. For me, it has already arrived this season with a vengeance. Unfortunately, seasonal allergies can make the spring unpleasant and the fall absolutely miserable.

Seasonal allergies can actually impact your ability to function. I remember a summer vacation trip where my car air conditioning broke down and for 5 hours I sneezed 250 times. Ok, maybe it wasn’t exactly 250 times, but it sure felt like it as I swerved down the highway, tears streaming down my face and my head jerking backwards causing some pretty severe whiplash. I kept thinking that if I could just stop breathing that I’d be alright. Needless to say, stopping breathing was not a viable option. However, I do believe that it is possible for you to reduce the intensity of your allergy reactions and avoid some of the triggers that set them off.

It’s Here!

Allergy season is defined as the months of the year with increased allergens. It peaks as the weather warms in the spring and fall and then ends with the onset of winter. As I write this article, I am reminded of one summer about 25 years ago, when my love for roses came to an abrupt halt. I was so fond of roses that I had planted them around the outside perimeter of my entire home. When the roses bloomed, my sinuses crashed and kleenex stock went through the roof. The allergic reaction lasted for 3 seasons and eventually subsided, but it was a rough 3 summers. While most people look forward to the arrival of spring, many of those who suffer from allergies dread it.

Increased allergens include higher than normal levels of pollen, mold, and other outdoor allergens. Ragweed is considered one of the most common allergens during the fall allergy season and ragweed is the number one cause of hay fever. It causes a respiratory allergy called Hay Fever Allergic Rhinitis. In the deep South, ragweed season often hits as early as July.

By limiting your exposure to pollens, molds, and other allergens during the height of allergy season you may be able to reduce your allergic reaction.

Some of the common allergy causes include: pollen, dust mites, mold, animal dander, insect stings, latex, and certain food and medications. The common symptoms indicating an allergic reaction are mild eye irritation, congestion, generalized swelling and difficulty breathing.

Allergy Levels

If you are one of the baby boomers active in sports, you may not reach your peak performance if you suffer an allergic reaction. You may be relegated to curling as your Olympic activity and have to give up pole vaulting. Regardless, it is a good idea to check your cable weather channel, local newspapers and internet in order to monitor the allergy levels in your area so you can live a happier and healthier life.

Depending on what triggers your allergy symptoms, “seasonal” allergies can last all year. Those who suffer from allergies should therefore avoid certain plant life at particular times during the allergy season. Seasonal allergies are immune reactions to pollens, molds, or other triggers that are present. Pollen and mold induced allergies are typically felt for three seasons, (spring, summer and fall) but can spell trouble all year.

Help Yourself

There are steps that you can take to minimize triggering of allergies.
First, check your home and keep it free of allergy triggers by vacuuming. Improve the air quality in your home by keeping windows closed. Use air conditioning and HEPA filter your home’s heating system. Remember to clean your home air filters and ducts regularly. And, do not smoke in your home.

Second, install and use a dehumidifier in basement areas and prevent mold growth by keeping humidity below 50%. Use a mask when entering basements, crawl spaces, garages, barns, and compost heaps. Hopefully, you won’t be arrested.

Third, wash your bed linens and towels in hot water and place in the dryer right away. Don’t hang laundry outside to dry where it can collect pollen.

Fourth, when cleaning, use a mask and gloves. Remove blinds and curtains that cannot be washed.
Also, there are a few things that you might not think of, yet can make a difference: Store firewood outdoors, avoid having wall-to-wall carpeting in your home if possible, routinely wash throw rugs, and be selective about your indoor plants. Keep pets outside and definitely keep them out of the bedroom. If you have pets, brush them outdoors to remove loose hair, dander, and other allergens. Bathe them cats. But start out doing this when they are young and maybe you’ll keep half your face.

Finally, realize that you can develop an allergy at any time. Recently, I have found that I have a gluten allergy which is causing me to avoid a few of my favorite things…breads, pasta and Elmer’s glue. But, that’s another story for another time. Now, please pass me a Kleenex.

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