Allergy Relief Tips Wherever You Go

Do your allergies act up as soon as you set foot outside? Use these simple tips to reduce exposure to pollens, molds, and other allergens and enjoy the outdoors again.

Friendly Flora for Allergies

It’s rough when the plants you love don’t love you back. Here’s how to make your time in the yard more pleasant:

  • Choose the right plants. Some plants don’t release pollen that triggers allergies. Allergy-friendly plants include irises, lilies, geraniums, and daisies. Steer clear of highly allergenic plants like timothy grass and willow trees.
  • Skip the lawn mowing. Cutting grass kicks up loads of allergens — grass pollen and mold. Hiring someone to mow the lawn, or getting a family member to do it, will give you a lot of relief.
  • Wear a mask. Cheap, disposable paper masks are available everywhere from pharmacies to lawn and garden centers. They’ll keep pollens and mold out of your airways.

Timing Activities for Allergies

Choose your outdoor activities based on the time of day — and year — when your allergies are most active.

  • Go outside when pollen counts are low. In general, the early morning and late evening are best. Pollen counts are higher in the middle of the day.
  • Avoid dry, breezy days. That’s when pollen counts tend to be highest. They’re lower on cool, damp days.
  • Watch the calendar. Stay inside more when the pollens or molds that trigger your allergies are most common. For instance, grass pollen season lasts only a month or so in the late spring or early summer. Stay inside as much as you can that month, and your symptoms should cause less trouble.

Allergy Apparel: What to Wear

Whether you’re gardening, playing sports, or just going for a walk outdoors, dress to deflect allergies.

  • Wear long-sleeves and pants. They can be light-weight and comfortable. Just make sure you’re covered, so your bare skin isn’t exposed to allergens.
  • Wear sunglasses. They’ll keep allergens out of your eyes.

After Exposure to Allergens

You can’t prevent all exposure to allergens when you’re outdoors. So to prevent an allergy flare-up, it’s important to clean up as soon as you come in.

  • Change clothing. If you’ve been outside gardening or playing sports, your clothes will be coated in allergens. Take it all off, and don’t put it on again until it’s been washed.
  • Shower. Changing clothes isn’t enough. You need to get the allergens off your skin and out of your hair as quickly as possible.

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Housecleaning Tips to Ease Allergies

SOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Indoor Allergens: Tips to Remember,” “Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever),” “Pollen Allergy.”

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Dust Mites,” “Tips to Control Indoor Allergens.”

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: “Tips on How to Avoid Common Allergens.”

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The 10 Worst Places for Fall Allergies in 2012

By Cari Nierenberg
WebMD Health News

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Oct. 5, 2012 — Some natives of Louisville, Ky., needn’t be surprised if they’re sneezing while reading this article. Their city tops the list this year as the worst place to live in the U.S. for fall allergies.

To earn the No. 1 spot, Louisville received a “worse than average” rating for its pollen counts and allergy medication use by each patient. But it got a “better than average” rating for the number of allergy specialists available in the area.

Last year, Louisville placed sixth in this annual ranking of 100 metropolitan areas done by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). In all, six Southern cities made the country’s top 10. Sacramento, Calif., was named the best place for people with autumn allergies to live.

The rankings are based on an analysis of three key factors: pollen and mold scores during fall 2011, the number of allergy medications used by people with allergies last fall, and the number of board-certified allergists per 10,000 patients.

This year’s 10 worst places for fall allergies are:

  1. Louisville, Ky.
  2. Wichita, Kan.
  3. Knoxville, Tenn.
  4. Jackson, Miss.
  5. McAllen, Texas
  6. Dayton, Ohio
  7. Oklahoma City, Okla.
  8. Memphis, Tenn.
  9. Madison, Wis.
  10. Baton Rouge, La.

This year’s five best places for fall allergies are:

  1. Sacramento, Calif.
  2. Portland, Ore.
  3. Stockton, Calif.
  4. Daytona Beach, Fla.
  5. San Francisco, Calif.

To see a complete listing of all 100 areas, visit the AAFA’s Allergy Capitals web site.

Feeling Better This Fall

Ragweed pollen is the main trigger of fall allergies. This summer’s heat and drought (a lack of rain keeps pollen floating in the air longer) likely means a rough fall for the nation’s 40 million seasonal allergy sufferers.

Besides ragweed pollen, mold spores from piles of damp leaves can also thrive in the fall. Both of these culprits can make noses run or stuff up, as well as lead to the sniffles, sneezing, and watery eyes. For people with asthma, it can also lead to more wheezing and trouble breathing

An allergy specialist can determine which pollen or molds are causing your symptoms, and prescribe treatment to help relieve them. Besides medication or allergy shots, you can also follow these tips to feel better this fall, whether outside or indoors:

  • Keep doors and windows closed at night to reduce the amount of outdoor allergens that get inside your home. Set the air conditioner on re-circulate.
  • Reduce mold by decreasing moisture around the house, especially in damp bathrooms, kitchens, and other wet areas. It’s a chore, but do your best to rake up piles of damp leaves.
  • Vacuum once or twice a week to minimize the amount of indoor allergens.
  • Keep surfaces clear of dust, especially in the bedroom, where you spend lots of time.

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Are We Too Clean? Letting Kids Get Dirty and Germy

It’s the basic nature of young children to touch the very things in their environment that their parents find most disgusting. Just try to keep your 1-year-old from sticking the dog’s bone in her mouth!

Epidemic-scale flu seasons have health authorities imploring regular hand washing, and with talk of sanitizer gel like it was liquid gold, it’s tough not to worry about what your children are getting into and the ultimate impact it will have on their health.

Infectious diseases are a legitimate cause for concern, but some would argue that our society has gone overboard when it comes to protecting our kids from germs.

How clean an environment do our kids really need for good health? Here’s what experts told WebMD.

Hygiene Hypothesis

A mounting body of research suggests that exposing infants to germs may offer them greater protection from illnesses such as allergies and asthma later on in life.

This line of thinking, called the “hygiene hypothesis,” holds that when exposure to parasites, bacteria, and viruses is limited early in life, children face a greater chance of having allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases during adulthood.

In fact, kids with older siblings, who grew up on a farm, or who attended day care early in life seem to show lower rates of allergies. 

Just as a baby’s brain needs stimulation, input, and interaction to develop normally, the young immune system is strengthened by exposure to everyday germs so that it can learn, adapt, and regulate itself, notes Thom McDade, PhD, associate professor and director of the Laboratory for Human Biology Research at Northwestern University.

Exactly which germs seem to do the trick hasn’t yet been confirmed. But new research offers clues.

In a recent study, McDade’s team found that children who were exposed to more animal feces and had more cases of diarrhea before age 2 had less incidence of inflammation in the body as they grew into adulthood.

Inflammation has been linked to many chronic adulthood illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

“We’re moving beyond this idea that the immune system is just involved in allergies, autoimmune diseases, and asthma to think about its role in inflammation and other degenerative diseases,” McDade says. “Microbial exposures early in life may be important… to keep inflammation in check in adulthood.”

Purging Germs: Health Booster or Bad Idea?

Most of the germs lurking about our environment and that live on our bodies are not only harmless; they’ve been with us for millennia, says Martin Blaser, MD, professor of internal medicine at New York University. 

As human behavior has changed over the past half century, many microbes, such as some that live in the gut, are disappearing.

“These perform important physiological functions but because of modern life they are changing and some are disappearing,” Blaser says. “Those disappearances have consequences — some good, some bad.”

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