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19 Tips From Allergists for How to Prevent and Treat Allergies

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by Vonda Skinner Skelton, R.N.

This year, about 50 million of us will sniffle, sneeze and snort our way through the allergy season. Here are four steps to clearing the air and making life a little easier.

1. TIPS FOR OUTDOOR ALLERGIES
Sometimes it seems that allergens are everywhere. But there are a few things you can do to help prevent contact, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. For example, stay inside on windy days and keep windows closed, using air conditioning instead.

More tips to help with outdoor allergies:

  • Clean air-conditioners often to prevent mold growth.
  • Wear glasses or sunglasses outdoors to keep pollen from irritating your eyes.
  • Wash hands and rinse eyes after coming inside to remove clinging pollen.
  • Wash hair at night to keep pollens from getting into bedding.
  • Take a trip to the beach: Ocean breezes help clear away allergens.


2. TIPS FOR INDOOR ALLERGIES
"Indoor allergens can be a more significant problem than those outdoors," says John Winder, M.D., allergist and chair of the free ACAAI Nationwide Asthma Screening Program. Pet dander, molds, skin and food particles, and insects accumulate in our homes, creating a perfect environment for allergies. Dust mites, microscopic creatures belonging to the spider family, thrive indoors and settle deep into carpets, pillows and mattresses.

Dr. Winder advises these steps to control allergens inside.

  • Thoroughly vacuum carpets, mattresses, drapes and furniture on a regular basis using a powerful vacuum with HEPA filtration.
  • Clean along baseboards.
  • Keep dust catchers such as stuffed animals and crowded shelves to a minimum.
  • Wash linens in hot water (130 degrees F or higher) to kill mites and their eggs.
  • Maintain indoor humidity at 50 percent or less; if necessary, use a dehumidifier.
  • Have air ducts cleaned.
  • Use an air purifier.
  • Avoid smoke, perfumes and air fresheners.

"As the number of children with allergies and asthma continue to rise, it is important for families to reduce indoor allergens," says Winder. "Children can be especially vulnerable because they spend more time indoors and more time sleeping."

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3. TIPS FOR ALLERGY MEDICINE

newsletter-graphicSo you've tried avoidance and you're still miserable? Then maybe it's time for the next step: medication.

"If itching, sneezing or a runny nose is the problem, an antihistamine is needed," says Derek Johnson, M.D., director of allergy and clinical immunology at Temple University Children's Medical Center. "Just be sure you know which drugs are more sedating, like Benadryl and chlorpheniramine, which may impair performance. Other over-the-counter medications, such as Alavert and Claritin, may be less problematic."

If congestion is also a problem, he recommends adding a decongestant, such as Sudafed.

Allergy SourcesBut when should we move beyond over-the-counter medications? Johnson says the following situations require a doctor's evaluation.

  • When symptoms persist
  • When several allergy symptoms exist simultaneously
  • If you have additional conditions, such as asthma or high blood pressure
  • When taking more than one medication at a time (to guard against interaction)
Johnson adds, "All medication, prescription or over-the-counter, can have possible side effects. Sedation is a big problem with many antihistamines. Sudafed can cause agitation, insomnia and increased blood pressure. And don't forget, pregnant and breast-feeding women should always check with their doctors before taking any medication."

    4. WHEN YOU MIGHT NEED ALLERGY SHOTS
    Injections ... just the thought is enough to cause many sufferers to continue in their misery. But Johnson says injections may be the answer in the following situations.
    • if symptoms persist longer than several months
    • if medication does not relieve symptoms
    • if the source is unavoidable, such as pollen or mold

    "The good part is, with allergy shots, a person can become less responsive to allergens, requiring a less vigorous avoidance even relieving the need for medication," says Johnson.

    Called immunotherapy, the injections are usually given for three to five years--long enough for the body to gradually decrease sensitivity and build immunity to the offending allergens.

    By avoiding the triggers, taking appropriate meds and considering immunotherapy, YOU can breathe easier this allergy season ... and all year long.


    VONDA SKINNER SKELTON, R.N.,
    brings 26 years of nursing experience to My Family Doctor. She has been writing on health-related topics for four years.

    Last updated and/or approved: July 2011. Original article appeared in spring 2005 former print magazine. Bio current as of that issue. First sidebar and accompanying bio appeared in winter 2006 issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

     

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    Re: Acupuncture??
    written by James Hubbard, M.D. , May 07, 2010

    Judy, there have small studies showing promise of treating seasonal allergies with acupuncture. Don't forget nasal irrigation, which is has been shown to help a lot of people.

    Thanks.

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    Acupuncture??
    written by Judy Rodman , May 06, 2010

    Have you ever heard of acupuncture working for allergies?
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