In a casual survey of the HealthyWomen audience, 67 percent reported taking medication to help control allergy symptoms. While this is a necessary step for many, avoiding the factors that can make allergies worse may help people keep medication intake to a minimum.
Depending on what you're allergic to, you may know how to avoid some of your major triggers, such as: don't let pets in your bedroom; minimize use of carpets, down comforters, pillows, plush upholstery and drapes; stay inside and keep windows closed during peak pollen times, especially at night and early morning hours; run air conditioners in your house and car; use air filtering devices and HEPA vacuum filters; and stay out of damp, moldy areas.
But, here are five lifestyle factors that you may not be aware of that can exacerbate symptoms like sniffling, sneezing and watery eyes.
1. Bringing fruits, vegetables and household plants home
We tend to think of fruits and veggies as being "good for you," but considering that pollen and other plant-derived allergens are what cause seasonal allergies, it makes sense that bringing plants, ferns and flowers into your house could aggravate your sinuses. In fact, scientists from the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology have reported that people with certain allergies tend to be sensitive to particular types of produce. For example, individuals who are allergic to grass may find that tomatoes, peaches or potatoes make their symptoms worse, while people with birch or alder tree allergies may be bothered by cherries, celery or apples. When it comes to household plants, ficus, yucca, ivy, palm, orchids and ferns are the most common causes of flare-ups.
2. Not following doctor's orders
If you've been prescribed a medication for severe allergies, it's best to take it exactly as your physician directs. Putting off starting your medication until late in the season when symptoms are in full swing or switching drugs or doses on your own may not produce the results you need, not to mention inadvertently putting more chemicals in your system than necessary. If you feel like your current prescribed regimen needs some tweaking, be sure to make an appointment with your health care professional to discuss your options.
3. Having that evening cocktail
This is one trigger that you may not want to hear about, but drinks like beer and wine contain bacteria and yeast, microorganisms that produce histamines, which are known allergy triggers. Studies have shown that wine has the most profound effect, especially in women. Red wine has 20 percent to 200 percent more histamines than white wine. Further, pickled or yeast-containing foods, like cheese, bread or cider, can have a similar effect on allergy symptoms.
4. Washing your laundry in cold water
It may be good for the environment and your energy bill, but doing all of your laundry in cold water may leave behind dust mites or other allergens in your sheets, clothes and towels. You don’t have to do the entire wash on the hot cycle, but it may be best for items like bedding that tend to collect particles or for times when your allergy symptoms are at their worst. If you don't want to set your water temperature as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills dust mite eggs, you may alternatively use the hottest dryer setting.
5. Hanging out with smokers
While cigarettes are a known trigger for people with sensitive sinuses or respiratory issues, you may also want to avoid hanging out very long with the people who smoke them. The harmful particles in tobacco smoke tend to stick to hair and clothing—hence the ever-present odor that smokers tend to carry—where they can be breathed in by you. As you can imagine, the effects are even worse when smokers are carrying out their habit indoors.