Don’t assume you have allergies and just have to suffer through the season. See your doctor, find out what exactly you are allergic to, and take steps to limit your suffering. You will be happier and healthier, better able to enjoy the beauty of autumn. Knowing what causes your symptoms is the first step toward preventing and treating them. Also, stop complaining. It could be worse. There are people who are allergic to wine.
1. Ragweed – If you are allergic to ragweed pollen, don’t just sit back and take it. Yes, it has an extremely high allergenic potential and is practically omnipresent, but there are things you can do about it. Check the pollen count each day. On days were it is high, try to stay indoors with the windows closed. Opt out of the walk – when do you ever hear a doctor say that? You will probably have to be outside some. If so, change your clothes when you get home and wash them in hot water. Wash your hair if you have been out for an extended time. Other people can drag the pollen in too. If someone in the family has severe allergies, ask everyone to be mindful. Pets, as well, can carry a ton of pollen into the house. If you have eye symptoms, where sunglasses.
2. Mold is everywhere. The key is to keep it under control. Indoors, maintain your humidity between 30-50% by using dehumidifiers. Bathrooms are great places for mold to grow. Use bathroom cleaners with mold-killing ingredients, like bleach. If carpets or upholstery get very wet, consider removing and replacing. Mold can cause severe coughs and wheezing in people who are allergic. Outside in the fall, avoiding the mold will be hard. It grows on all the wet leaves and on the trees. Look at it as the perfect excuse to hire someone to rake the leaves. If you rake the leaves yourself, wear a mask. Take off your shoes when you come inside.
3. Dust Mites – Dust mites are present all year round. You can limit them in your home with frequent dusting and vacuuming. Use damp cloths that you can wash or throw away. Dry cloths will likely just sent the dust mites into the air. The use of an air purifier can help but cannot replace frequent cleaning. You can purchase bedding designed to repel dust mites. Very importantly, if someone in your home has allergies to dust mites, clean the heating vents before you turn on your furnace. Lots of little mites are sitting in those vents just waiting for a push into your environment.
4. Types of treatment – There are many ways to attack allergies. You can attack the symptoms with decongestants or limit your immune response with antihistamines. Over-the-counter, you can purchase both types of meds, or combinations of these. Eye drops and nasal sprays are great ways to control symptoms without the systemic side effect. Often, patients have to try different medicines before they find the one that works. Don’t get frustrated, work through it with your doctor. You will be glad you did. There is a product called allergen blocker. It is a gel you put near your nose, designed to stop little allergens before they get in. In theory, it sounds great and I have had patients who find it useful – especially with their children. Since it is not a medicine, it is not regulated by the FDA. It has not been proven effective and the jury is still out. For a few dollars, it may be worth a shot.
5. Start now – Be proactive. If you know you have allergies, consider starting treatment now, before symptoms start. As with pain, it is easier to treat before symptoms are full blown.
That’s all for this week. I am going to go out an buy an American Flag – ashamed to say I don’t already have one. I wish everyone a thoughtful weekend, filled with reflection and gratitude. I can’t believe it has been ten years.