Ah-choo! It’s that time of year again – sniffling, sneezing, runny noses, and itchy eyes – the spring allergy season is in full swing. For people who suffer with seasonal allergies, this time of year is no fun at all. At Riviera Allergy Medical Center (RAMC) we have some of the best seasonal allergy medicine to treat nasal allergy symptoms, but the first treatment is always prevention. With that in mind, our allergy doctor, Dr. Ulrike Ziegner, is providing this handy list of the top ten spring allergy triggers to avoid:
- Pollen: Most people with airborne allergies already know that they need to stay away from pollen; however, this is sometimes easier said than done. Depending on where you live, pollen is a powdery substance that may come from pine trees, flowers, grass, weeds, pet fur and other airborne irritants. When you are inside, you can install an air conditioner to filter the outdoor air but, unless you plan to stay inside for most of the year, pollen is hard to avoid. Be sure to remove your shoes and outer clothing as soon as you come inside so you don’t drag pollen throughout your whole home. Antihistamines and other allergy solutions might be helpful in treating pollen allergies temporarily.
- Food: Who knew fruit and vegetables could be dangerous for people with allergies? You wait all winter to taste the juicy delights again, only to find out that they can trigger an allergy attack. Because your body is already sensitive to pollen and your immune system is in a heightened response mode, you might react to triggers that resemble your outdoor allergens. If allergy tests show you are sensitive to birch tree pollen, you might want to be cautious when eating foods such as apple, celery and walnut.
- Alcohol: Oh no – not alcohol! There are so many refreshing spring and summer drinks that it may be hard to imagine that they could cause problems, too. Drinking alcohol may increase the severity of symptoms associated with asthma, hay fever, chronic bronchitis, and COPD. The theory is that alcohol can dilate the blood vessels in your nose, commonly known as vaso-motoric reaction, and might also irritate your already-heightened immune system response mechanism. Wine might actually be the biggest culprit in increasing symptoms, due to grape food allergen and sulfite as preservative. This doesn’t mean you have to give up drinking totally this spring – just watch your consumption, especially with wine. Dr. Ziegner also reminds patients that they should ask our allergy center about drinking if they are already taking any type of seasonal allergy medication, in particular anti-histamines.
- Stress: Some people tend to relax and “cocoon” over the winter. When spring hits, they stress themselves out with all kinds of outdoor and family activities. They try to fit everything into a very short time period, and end up just causing more stress for themselves. While you’re not necessarily allergic to stress, it can worsen any symptoms you may already be experiencing from seasonal allergies. This could happen because stress may signal your body to increase its levels of allergy-triggering proteins. The stress hormone, cortisol, can also compromise your immune system and wear you down, which could make it more difficult for your body to recuperate from any seasonal allergens. Try to reduce the amount of stress in your life at this time of year. Prioritize your activities, get other family members involved, and remember to schedule some down time just for yourself.
- Hair Products: When you’re out and about during the spring and summer, you naturally want to look your best, but some of those hair products could be doing you more harm than good. Pollen can actually be attracted to those gooey hair gels and pastes, and could stick to your hair. When your hair gets into your face, the pollen can trigger your sinus allergies. Try to get by with as few hair products as possible, or cut your hair in a shorter style that stays out of your face. If you do use hair products, be sure to wash it thoroughly every day to remove any allergens that may have attached themselves to it.
- Thunderstorms: As if thunder and lightning weren’t scary enough all on their own, here is another reason for asthma and allergy sufferers to be concerned during a storm. A “soaking” rain is good for cleaning pollen from the air and holding down grass. But a thunderstorm can be problematic for someone with a grass pollen allergy because the heavy winds and rains serve to stir up the pollen and spread it around more. A severe thunderstorm can break up pollen into even more tiny allergens, leading to a greater need for allergy and asthma care. Stay inside during and after any kind of rough weather, and make sure all windows are securely sealed.
- Spring Cleaning: As soon as spring hits, many people feel compelled to give their home a spring cleaning to rid it of all that winter grime and dirt. The problem is that the very act of cleaning could stir up some of the allergens which may have settled in your household dirt. Dust mites are tiny bugs that can be found wherever dust builds up – like in mattresses, carpets and furniture. They can leave droppings in the dust that can trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive people. If you are doing your spring cleaning, focus on the bedroom in particular. Wash all of your sheets and bedding, along with any fabric curtains, in hot water. If you are extremely sensitive, remove the rug in your bedroom, and then damp-mop the floor rather than sweep it. If you’re vacuuming all the nooks and crannies in your home, make sure to use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter to trap the dust. Make spring cleaning a family affair so you’re not the only one exposed to the allergens, or consider hiring a professional cleaning service.
- High Humidity: Dust mites thrive in warmer temperatures associated with spring. These little bugs that live in household dirt can trigger nasal problems and other symptoms similar to seasonal allergies. A damp environment can also be a breeding ground for mold. If you have asthma, you may also be allergic to mold. Keep your home as clean as possible and use a dehumidifier to lower humidity levels inside your home. Try to keep your indoor temperature below 68° so you’re not putting out the “welcome mat” for the dust mites. If your basement tends to become flooded with water during the spring, avoid installing carpeting on the cement floor, as that will hold in mold and mildew.
- Ceiling Fans: It feels so good to have a ceiling fan gently keeping the air moving inside your home, but it could be stirring up indoor allergens along with outdoor allergens that your family and pets may have dragged inside. Try to use the air conditioner as much as possible to keep your home cool, but make sure any filters are clean. If you do use your ceiling fan, clean all of its blades thoroughly to remove any dust particles and pollen which might have accumulated up there.
- Pets: Any pets that are outside for an extended period of time are capable of bringing pollen and other allergens into your home. Brush your pets thoroughly outside and make sure to give them plenty of baths. If you like to have your outdoor pet sleep in bed with you, this could be the time to break that habit. Still want a pet without all the allergic reactions? Consider buying a hypoallergenic cat or dog which could help reduce some of your allergic reactions.
Other allergy and asthma prevention tips include not giving your houseplants too much water, as mold and mildew can grow in their soil and aggravate your nasal allergies. Ask your local nursery how much water each plant needs, and consider purchasing snake plants or spider plants which can actually help clean the air in your home.
In addition to the suggestions Dr. Z provided above, it can also be helpful to bathe at night before going to bed, to remove any pollen and allergens that may have accumulated on your body and hair during the day. If you really prefer the morning shower, consider just washing your hair at night. At the very least, make sure you thoroughly cleanse your face and eye areas before retiring. Consider purchasing a Neilmed Sinus Rinse system to keep your nasal passages clear from pollen and particles.
What Are Some Good Remedies for Allergies?
It can be hard to find an allergy cure until you know exactly what is triggering your specific symptoms. An accurate diagnosis is the first step in finding the allergy cure you need. Dr. Ziegner starts by listening carefully as you describe your symptoms and allergy triggers. She then performs a thorough physical examination to determine how your allergies are affecting your overall health. RAMC also offers the latest allergy testing methods, including skin testing for food and environmental allergies, breathing function testing, immune response testing and others, right in the comfort of our office.
There are two primary types of allergy tests we use. One is a blood test that measures blood levels of IgE antibodies in relation to specific allergens. The other is an allergy skin test, in which our doctor or a technician scratches or pricks your skin to expose it to a drop of allergen-laden solution. Each scratch is related to a different allergen. If a hive develops, that usually indicates an allergic reaction to the particular substance, although your test may show that you are allergic to multiple allergens.
If an allergy test confirms that you are suffering from an airborne or outdoor allergen, Dr. Ziegner will prescribe the best allergy treatment for your specific condition. She may recommend antihistamines or prescribe one of the top allergy medications that have proven effective at treating your particular symptoms. She may discuss the benefits of allergy shots or oral immunotherapy, which work to halt the immune system’s reaction to an allergen. If your problem is not year-round, she may recommend seasonal allergies medication to treat your condition for a short period of time. We will also discuss environmental factors that you may be able to change in order to reduce your exposure to allergy triggers.
Allergy cures also include allergen immunotherapy, which works over time to decrease your sensitivity to allergens. This therapy is delivered through allergy shots or oral medication and can lead to long-lasting relief of allergy symptoms, even after the treatment is completed. Dr. Ziegner offers allergy immunotherapy of a high success rate with highly customized antigen mixes to meet each patient’s individual needs.
There may be some correlation between your asthma & allergy symptoms as well. If you think that allergic triggers may be affecting your asthma, consider being tested for allergies. If the allergy tests show that you are allergic to one or more substances, you can try controlling them so that you don’t aggravate your asthma symptoms, and increase your asthma medication costs. Dr. Z may also want to discuss treating your allergic asthma with subcutaneous or oral immunotherapy.
Be sure to check our website for the current pollencast in Redondo Beach, California, or to search for the area nearest you. You’ll find four day pollen estimates for tree, grass and weed pollen that can help you determine if you need to schedule any nasal allergy treatment at our Center. Understand what causes your allergies so you can breathe easier and live better with advanced solutions for allergy & asthma.
About RAMC – Riviera Allergy Medical Center offers comprehensive treatment for the most common food allergies, skin allergy medicine, and asthma prevention. Located at 1711 Via El Prado, Suite 101 in Redondo Beach, the allergy and asthma center is headed by renowned seasonal allergy treatment specialist, Dr. Ulrike Ziegner. Visit the website and Facebook page or call 310-792-9050 for more information or to schedule an appointment for allergy testing and allergy treatment.