By Tracey Dowdy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. costing Americans over $18 billion every year. That number may seem high, but more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, some year round.
Anyone is susceptible to allergies, and they can develop with little or no warning throughout your lifetime. I had no allergies until my first pregnancy, then developed seasonal allergies as well as an allergy to cats. Over the past couple of years, I’ve added wheat, barley, and squash to the list.
So what is an allergy? It’s merely an overreaction of your immune system to materials that generally don’t affect others. Your body can react in many different ways, including sneezing, hives, rashes, or coughing, and the severity can run from irritating to deadly.
If you or someone in your household is battling seasonal allergies, along with over-the-counter or prescription medication, there are steps you can take to mitigate your symptoms.
- Change your routine. Especially helpful this time of year when Spring allergies are at their peak, a shower when you walk in the door after school or work rinses the pollen off your skin and hair, eliminating much of the irritants you picked up even if you’ were only outdoors for a short time. Leaving outdoor clothing like jackets and shoes near the door or in the mudroom can help reduce symptoms, as will changing clothes as soon as you get home.
- Keep the outdoors, well, outdoors. Although it’s tempting to fling open the windows and doors after a long winter, keeping them shut will go a long way towards reducing symptoms. That breeze not only brings pollen and mold spores into your home, but it also kicks up allergens already present. Dust or wipe down surfaces, and be sure to replace or clean your homes furnace filter to further reduce indoor allergens.
- Pay Attention to Weather Conditions. Alan Reppert, an AccuWeather senior meteorologist, says, “Spring allergies are driven by trees and grass pollen, and different people will have their own reactions. If you do suffer from spring allergens, a cold front passing through can bring some relief. But even when the weather seems quiet, allergens can be present and contribute to illness. For example, when rain begins and washes pollen out of the air, mold spores can climb and cause allergy problems.” AccuWeather has a daily allergy index, you can find at AccuWeather.com or on their free AccuWeather app available for iOS and Android.
- Finally, take advantage of apps that will help you track and hopefully reduce the impact of seasonal allergies. Web MD has an excellent app specifically targeted to allergy sufferers. Get personalized allergy and weather forecasts, pollen and mold levels for your area, and tips from doctors to help reduce symptoms. Zyrtec’s AllergyCast app offers daily allergy impact and pollen counts, 10-day forecasts so you know ahead of time what to expect and how to prepare, a log to help you track your allergies, and customizable alerts for when allergens are particularly high. And of course, it’s a smart idea to have The Red Cross First Aid app downloaded in case of an emergency. The app offers videos and step-by-step advice for a wide range of medical emergencies, including allergies and anaphylaxis. All four apps are available in Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.