If you think nasal allergy symptoms like stuffy nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and coughing are inevitable, guess again. Allergic rhinitis occurs when your body overreacts to certain allergens that you encounter in your everyday pursuits. Your lifestyle and actions — whether deliberate choices or random incidences — may be contributing to your misery. Discover the biggest mistakes people make and smart ways doctors recommend to avoid them.
1. Ignoring Your Symptoms
After years of allergy-free living, you can become allergic to pets or pollen without realizing it because symptoms are subtle and chronic. If you need antibiotics for sinusitis every spring, you may have a pollen allergy. Dr. Myngoc Nguyen, M.D., chief of allergy at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Northern California, cautions that repeated antibiotic use isn’t necessary and doesn’t help pollen allergies.
Your nasal allergy symptoms are out of control if you experience itchy and runny nose, chronic congestion, dark circles under watery eyes, post-nasal drip, sinus pain, wheezing, itchy skin, insomnia, fatigue, and depression. If they persist, visit an allergist.
2. Delaying Medication Use
As seasons change, plants spew pollen. Try to anticipate when your symptoms will begin and start allergy treatment beforehand. Follow that rule prior to visiting a cat-loving friend if felines trigger flare-ups. “These medications almost all work better to prevent allergy symptoms than they do to treat them, so people should not wait until they’re having symptoms to start taking their medicines,” said Dr. David Rosenstreich, M.D., director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. Once-daily Nasonex Nasal Spray helps relieve symptoms of both seasonal (outdoor) and year-round (indoor) allergic rhinitis. Don’t skip a day, even if your symptoms are under control.
3. Having an Ineffective EpiPen
Your doctor may prescribe an EpiPen auto injector if you’re at high risk for anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Its adrenaline will direct blood to vital organs and open the airways in your lungs. Rosenstreich reminds patients to check it every year to be sure the expiration date hasn’t passed. Replace your out-of-date EpiPen prescription online so you’ll be ready before allergies bother you most.
Learn how to use it properly. “You don’t want to start reading the label in the middle of an attack,” Rosenstreich said. Don’t keep your EpiPen in your car because exposure to temperature extremes can make it less effective. Also be aware that once you take off the safety cap, the needle will inject anything it touches accidentally.
4. Overlooking Pollen Counts
Rosenstreich recommends knowing pollen counts and typical seasons for outdoor airborne allergens that bother you. Check out today’s local and national allergy forecasts online to find out exactly when allergy season begins in your area. Also use this site to look up four-day forecasts for your zip code and sign up to receive allergy alerts by email. The more information you have, the better you can prepare to manage your symptoms.
5. Exercising at the Wrong Times
Outdoor workouts might be your thing, but Nguyen advocates avoiding morning and early afternoon times. Grasses and trees start releasing pollen at sunrise with levels peaking in the late morning and early afternoon. “I always suggest people run after work in the late afternoon or evening,” she said. Exercising when pollen counts are lower, Rosenstreich agreed, “can make an enormous difference.” When pollen counts are high, opt for a less strenuous workout.
6. Keeping Windows Open
Establish a rule to keep your windows closed and air conditioner on during pollen season. Be sure to set your AC to recirculate. If the outside temperature isn’t hot, you can use filter-only mode. A room air purifier is an extremely effective way to remove pollen, animal dander, dust, and other allergens from indoor air. But it’s useless if you open the room’s doors and windows. This device filters just one room-sized area — not your entire house or the great outdoors. Nguyen encourages using your car’s air conditioner to cut the amount of pollen you breathe by as much as 30 percent.
7. Decorating for Failure
Do you cover the bed in your carpeted bedroom with piles of pillows, or stuffed animals? All of these items are major magnets for dust, a common allergy trigger. You’re better off with bare floors in your bedroom. Rosenstreich urges limiting your clutter collection and rugs to a select few that you can wash occasionally.
A down comforter might be trouble, especially if you’ve had it a long time. Feathers can be very allergenic and become even more so as they age and break down. Synthetic stuffing like polyester fiberfill is a better choice. Make your pillows and mattress less sneeze-inducing by encasing them in dust-mite-proof covers.
8. Sleeping with Your Pet
You may need to break your enjoyable habit of sharing your bed with your dog or cat overnight to relieve your allergies. Having a so-called hypoallergenic pet doesn’t really help. While some breeds are less allergy provoking than others, experts report that any furry animal can cause symptoms in susceptible patients.
Even hairless cats and dogs can be allergenic. Skin flakes and proteins in pet saliva and urine — not fur — cause allergy symptoms. Even if you’re not allergic to animals, Dr. Rosenstreich warns that pets can bring pollen, dust, mold, and other allergens inside from the outdoors. He advises keeping your bedroom an allergy-free zone.