“Please, no flowers. I have allergies.”
Have you ever heard this from a co-worker, or from someone you were visiting in the hospital? You thought about showing up with a nice bouquet of blooms, only to have them claim that the flowers would trigger an allergy attack and cause sneezing, watery eyes and more.
While some (meaning very, very few) people might have a slight allergic reaction to the pollen in cut flowers, it’s exceedingly rare for someone to have a full-blown allergy attack thanks to a vase of daisies. Most people are allergic to the pollen produced by trees, weeds and grass — i.e., outdoor pollen — and will be just fine around cut flowers.
This notion that a florist’s delivery can trigger an allergy attack is just one of the many allergy myths that plague those who suffer from the nasal congestion, itchy eyes and throat and other symptoms triggered by allergens in the environment. Given that about 20 percent of Americans suffer from some type of allergy symptoms, and that almost half of all adults test positive for some type of allergen, it only makes sense that people want some sort of answers for their suffering along with relief. The problem? Believing certain myths about allergies not only leads people to turn to useless (even harmful) cures, they might also keep them from enjoying certain aspects of their lives.
Myth #1: You Can Outgrow Allergies
“I hope you outgrow this someday,” you might hear an exasperated mom say as she wipes her son’s nose for the hundredth time that day. While some allergies, particularly certain food allergies, do have a strong likelihood of diminishing as a child gets older (most milk allergies, for example, are gone by age 16) it’s very unlikely that allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, will ever go away. One Swedish study of children with hay fever found that 99 percent of them still had symptoms well into adulthood, although some reported that the symptoms weren’t as bad.
There are a few reasons that allergy symptoms may improve between childhood and adulthood. One is the maturing of the immune system; as we get older, our immune function improves and becomes more tolerant of allergens, thereby reducing symptoms. In addition, adults have more allergy treatment options and may be more likely to use prescription medications to ease their symptoms. Either way, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever “outgrow” your allergies.
Myth #2: Allergens Are Only Found in Rural, Grassy Areas
You’ve suffered long enough and have decided that the only way you’re going to be able to live without constant sniffling and sneezing is if you get away from the pollen that’s causing your difficulties. So, you pack up and head out of town. While many people believe that moving to the beach or the desert will eliminate their allergies, the truth is that allergens are present everywhere. Species of ragweed are found in every state, and even in the desert plants and grasses can release pollen that is likely to aggravate anyone who has allergen sensitivity. You might find some relief on a sandy beach, but as soon as you encounter grass, trees and other plants, you’re likely to have symptoms again. Therefore, don’t let your allergies dictate where you live.
Myth #3: The Weather Has No Effect on Pollen
If you have allergies, you have reason to appreciate rainy days: Chilly, wet days tend to have the lowest pollen counts, thereby bringing much needed relief to allergy sufferers. The days when pollen ends to be the worst? Those long summer days when the temperatures are high, humidity is low and a breeze is blowing (there goes that desert theory again.) Regardless of the weather, pollen counts tend to be highest during the daytime hours, so if you want to be outside, plan your activities for early morning or evening hours when the pollen counts are lower.
Myth #4: Allergies Are the Worst in the Spring
While many people look forward to spring and the return of warm days, flowers and green grass, for allergy sufferers, springtime is met with dread. However, while allergy symptoms definitely increase in the spring, the worst time of year for allergies is actually summer. Not only are the temperatures higher, which causes more pollen productions, there is more mold in the atmosphere.
Outdoor mold requires warm, moist conditions — in other words, a typical summer day. And of course, late summer usually brings with it ragweed, which puts millions of people in misery from late July through October. Does that mean you need to spend the summer months indoors? No, but take precautions and try to avoid those areas and situations that increase your symptoms.
Living with allergies isn’t always enjoyable. In fact, it can be downright miserable in certain circumstances. Understanding what does and doesn’t influence your allergies, and what really helps being relief lets you avoid wasting time on useless remedies — not to mention, needlessly banning fresh flowers from your office.