Allergies are a common problem in America, affecting a wide variety of people in all age groups. In fact, recent statistics published by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) show that more than 50 million Americans are affected by allergies each year, making it the sixth highest cause of chronic illness symptoms. Many of these symptoms include breathing difficulties, eye irritation, rashes, itching or other types of skin irritation. If you or a loved one is increasingly struggling with uncomfortable allergy symptoms, the following tips will help you find some much needed relief.
Rethink your strategy in the home
Airborne irritants are a leading cause of many of the allergy symptoms experienced by most allergy sufferers. These irritants include:
- mold spores
- dust mites
- animal dander
- wood and cigarette smoke
- exhaust fumes
- airborne chemicals
Taking steps to eliminate or reduce exposure to these airborne allergens begins with looking for ways to eliminate or reduce them in areas where you spend a significant amount of time, such as in your home, car and place of work.
Since you likely spend the most time in your home, it makes sense to begin there in your quest to reduce airborne allergen exposure by trying the following strategies:
- having your HVAC system professionally cleaned annually, including all vents, ducts and blowers
- replacing standard HVAC filters with special, high efficiency filters capable of removing at least 90% of allergen particles during heating and cooling processes
- opting to keep windows closed year round to prevent pollen and other irritants from gaining entry into the home
- thoroughly cleaning drapes, curtains, blinds, furnishings and other items in your home frequently to remove dust and irritants
- vacuuming frequently with a machine that uses special filters to reduce allergens
- wiping off pets with a damp towel before they come back into the house after being outside
- showering and changing into fresh clothing after being outside
- creating a shoe changing and storage area in your garage to keep from tracking allergens into the home on the soles of your shoes
- eliminate chemical use inside the home, including chemically-based cleaners, bleach and products that contain other irritants by replacing them with safe cleaning aides, made with common pantry items, such as baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar and salt
- eliminate air freshener, scented candles and potpourri from the home environment
- eliminate scented cosmetics, skin care products, shampoos and soaps and replace them with hypoallergenic options
Reduce allergen exposure in the car
To help keep allergen exposure low when in your car, you can use many of the same methods used in your home, such as keeping windows closed, having the air ducts cleaned, replacing cabin filters with high efficiency ones and vacuuming the interior frequently.
In addition, you should also look at the route you usually take when driving to work or doing errands and see if there are problematic areas that you could avoid by changing the route. These areas might include agricultural areas where hay is being cut, areas where chemicals might be in use or areas where crops are flowering and producing excessive pollen. Other areas might include locations where buildings are being painted, roads are being resurfaced, pesticides are being sprayed for insect control or vegetation is being sprayed with growth inhibitors.
Remove workplace allergens
Reducing allergens in your workplace can be challenging, but there are a few things you can do to help limit your exposure. If your allergies cause discomfort on the job, and especially if they are severe enough to result in absences from work, try to discuss the matter frankly with your supervisor and see what help they might offer. In some cases, simply installing an air purifier in the office or allowing you to work in an area away from known irritants may help solve the problem. If this is not possible, you may wish to ask permission to take over the responsibility of keeping your immediate work area clean to avoid the use of chemicals used by the janitorial company or consider wearing a face mask while working.
Allergy symptoms that cause discomfort or seem to worsen over time should always be evaluated by an allergy specialist to help determine the cause or causes. In some cases, the use of inexpensive fluticasone nasal sprays or other allergy medications can relieve symptoms and help restore your ability to breathe easily. Talk with a doctor for additional info and options.