by Jamie Lober
Itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, headaches—millions are plagued by allergies each year. “Pennsylvania is a pretty bad area because it is very fertile with a lot of grass and trees,” says Dr. Susan Broderman, internal medicine physician at Doylestown Hospital. While outside triggers such as grasses, trees and weeds are hard to avoid, there are things that can be done to safeguard the home and make it a healthier place for allergy sufferers.
Beware of dust. “If you are allergic to dust, you’re better off with hardwood floors rather than carpeting, and if you have carpeting, be sure to vacuum regularly,” notes Broderman. Get in the habit of closing windows, which helps cut down the amount of pollen entering the home and decreases humidity.
Get rid of mold. It can be remediated and kept under control. “Clean the shower regularly with bleach,” recommends Broderman. “If you have a major mold problem in the basement, call in an expert to remove it.” Keep humidity low to avoid mold buildup by using a dehumidifier or air conditioning.
Stay clear of pets. For those with animal allergies, “the best thing is to avoid them or at least not have them sleep in the bedroom,” says Broderman.
Be selective with food choices. “The most common food allergy is seafood, but people can be allergic to anything, including eggs, milk, corn, wheat, tomatoes or fruits,” advises Broderman. If severe reactions have been known to occur, carry an epinephrine autoinjector—or EpiPen—at all times, in case of accidental ingestion.
Try at-home relief measures. “The first thing I would recommend would be an over-the-counter, non-sedating antihistamine,” Broderman suggests. If suffering from outdoor allergies, a simple shower after prolonged exposure—such as yard work or playing in the grass with children—can bring relief.
If symptoms persist, see a doctor. Be prepared to share medical history and answer questions about what triggers the allergic reactions. The doctor may recommend trying over-the-counter medications first; if those are ineffective, prescription medicine, nasal sprays or eye drops may be prescribed. Many allergy sufferers are also referred to an allergist for skin testing that can further diagnose what is causing the reactions.
Jamie Lober is president of Talk Health with Jamie, Inc., and a contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect at Jamie@GetPinkPower.com and TalkHealthWithJamie.com. April 2014.