Who’s to blame for your allergies?

Are you one of the 35 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies? If so you’re probably not cheering the official end of winter.  But before you start blaming Persephone – goddess of Spring, for your symptoms you may want to look a little closer to home.

Many of the everyday things you’re doing, from what you eat to how you clean your home may be interfering with relief from your stuffy nose, sneezing, sniffling or other symptoms.

People with spring allergies often don’t realize how many things can aggravate their allergy symptoms so they just muddle along and hope for an early end to the season,” says allergist Myron Zitt, M.D.“But there’s no reason to suffer. A few simple adjustments in habits and treatment can make springtime much more enjoyable.”

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) advises people with spring allergies to be on the lookout for five things that can aggravate suffering.

1. Eating fruits and vegetables – Many people with seasonal allergies also suffer from pollen food allergy syndrome (also called oral allergy syndrome), a cross-reaction between the similar proteins in certain types of fruits, vegetables and the allergy-causing pollen. 1:5 people with grass allergies and as many as 70% of people with birch tree allergies suffer from the condition, which can make your lips tingle and swell and your mouth itch.

If you’re allergic to birch or alder trees, you might have a reaction to celery, cherries or apples. If you have grass allergies, tomatoes, potatoes or peaches may bother you. Usually the reaction is simply annoying and doesn’t last long. But up to 9% of people have reactions that affect a part of their body beyond their mouth and almost 2% can suffer a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.

2. Using the wrong air filter – Using an air filter to keep your home pollen-free is a good idea, but be sure it’s the right kind. Studies show inexpensive central furnace/air conditioning filters and ionic electrostatic room cleaners aren’t helpful – and in fact the latter releases ions, which can be an irritant. Whole-house filtration systems do work, but change the filters regularly or you could be doing more harm than good.

3. Opening your windows – When your windows are open, the pollen can drift inside, settle into your carpet, furniture and car upholstery and continue to torture you. So keep your house and car windows shut during allergy season.

4. Procrastinating – You may think you can put off or even do without medication this spring, but the next thing you know you’re stuffed up, sneezing and downright miserable. Instead, get the jump on allergies by taking your medication before the season gets under way.

5. Self medicating – Perhaps you’re not sure exactly what’s making you feel awful so you switch from one medication to the next hoping for relief.

This spring, your best bet is to see an allergist, who can determine just what’s triggering your symptoms and suggest the most appropriate treatment.

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