seasonal allergiesHave your eyes been itchy or watering or your nose congested lately? Are you having sneezing attacks or difficulty breathing? If so, you are not alone. You are one of the 40 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies.

Allergy is characterized by an overreaction of the immune system to a foreign protein substance (“allergen”) that is eaten, breathed into the lungs, injected or touched. This immune overreaction can results in symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. In severe cases it can also result in rashes, hives, lower blood pressure, difficulty breathing, asthma attacks, and even death (source: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America).

The following are statistics from the AAFA on seasonal allergies:

  • There are no cures for allergies. Allergies can be managed with proper prevention and treatment.
  • Allergies have a genetic component. If only one parent has allergies of any type, chances are 1 in 3 that each child will have an allergy. If both parents have allergies, it is much more likely (7 in 10) that their children will have allergies.
  • More Americans than ever before say they are suffering from allergies. It is among the country’s most common, yet often overlooked, diseases.
  • Indoor and Outdoor Allergies – (Allergic rhinitis; seasonal/perennial allergies; hay fever; nasal allergies). Approximately 40 million Americans have indoor/outdoor allergies as their primary allergy. Many people with allergies usually have more than one type of allergy. Approximately 10 million people are allergic to cat dander, the most common pet allergy. The most common indoor/outdoor allergy triggers are:  tree, grass and weed pollen; mold spores; dust mite and cockroach allergen; and, cat, dog and rodent dander.
  • Come late summer, some 10 to 20 percent of Americans begin to suffer from ragweed allergy, or hay fever. Sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, itchy eyes, nose and throat and trouble sleeping make life miserable for these people. Some of them also must deal with asthma attacks.
  • Of Americans who are allergic to pollen-producing plants, 75 percent are allergic to ragweed. People with allergies to one type of pollen tend to develop allergies to other pollens as well.
  • For adults, allergies (hay fever) is the 5th leading chronic disease and a major cause of work absenteeism and “presenteeism,” resulting in nearly 4 million missed or lost workdays each year, resulting in a total cost of more than $700 million in total lost productivity.

While there is no cure for seasonal allergies, there are a few precautions you can take to make this time of year a little more tolerable:

  • Try to remain indoors with air conditioning to reduce exposure to pollen in the air.
  • Dust often to reduce the amount of dirt, pollen, and dust that is lying around your home.
  • Keeping the windows closed as much as possible will help to prevent pollen from entering the home.
  • Wash bedding and linens frequently to get rid of any trapped allergens.
  • Try to avoid going outdoors in the early morning hours, between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen is usually emitted from plants.
  • Avoid hanging laundry outside where pollen could easily settle on clothes and linens.
  • Add an air purifier to your home.
  • Use a vacuum that has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to help suck an extra pollen, dust, and dander out of the air.
  • Take antihistamine medication. There are several over-the-counter options available these days such as Claritin, Benadryl, and Zyrtec. Zyrtec is beneficial to those who suffer from indoor and outdoor allergies. Nasal sprays can also provide some relief with little to no side effects. There are several natural alternatives that may be worth looking into if you do not want to take medication on a regular basis. Whole Foods provides a wide variety of allergy relief options.
  • If your allergies are so severe that medication does not work-speak with your doctor about receiving allergy shots.

Seasonal allergies seemed to hit a bit earlier in the season this year and are at extremely high levels. To help reduce your level of discomfort this year, give a few of these tips a try.