Allergy Awareness

Written by Danielle Gymorie Cert. Personal Trainer Prescription Fitness

At the start of every Spring/Summer, I know that also means the start of allergy season.  While I love seeing the seasons change and everything blooming, my seasonal allergies make me pay the price. I know I am not alone in my suffering.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion.  More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year.”

There are medications and immunotherapy (ugh, shots!), but many try to avoid taking much medicine for fear of being drowsy and more easily distracted.  Here are some new habits to try and pick up in hopes that they will reduce your symptoms and keep you out of the medicine cabinet.

Know What’s Coming

If you want to know what’s blooming in your area or when a specific type of grass or weed has a high pollen count, check out the National Allergy Bureau (NAB) data on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website. If you already know what grasses, trees or weed bother you most, use it to plan your outdoor activities.  If you’re not sure what culprits are causing your misery, start an allergy journal.  Record the days your symptoms are high and compare it to the data on the NAB website. They’ll email you a report if you set up an account.

Around the House

If you are annoyed by allergies all year long, it might be due to dust mites, pet hair, dander or mold. Fortunately there are things you can do around the house to lessen your symptoms. Unfortunately, there is some cleaning involved.

  • Remove Clutter
    • The less stuff in your house, the fewer places for allergens to hang out. It will also be easier to clean if you do so thoroughly once a week.  Get rid of old rags, newspapers, clothes and other absorptive items.  Limit knickknacks, magazines, and other dust catchers.  Focus on bedrooms especially, because you and allergens both spend more time there.
  • Clean the Air
    • Use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters in the air conditioning system.
    • Maintain the humidity level in the house at about 50 percent. Mold likes moisture, and dust and pollen are easily stirred in dry air.
    • Keep your windows closed when pollen counts are highest: in the early morning hours, between 10 am and 3 p.m., and in windy conditions.
  • Clean the Cleaning Room
    • Your bathroom is for mold what your bedroom is for dust mites—heaven. Inspect water pipes for leaks and fix them promptly.
    • Regularly clean walls with a nontoxic cleaner.
    • Make sure that ventilation fans are routed to the outside, and run them for 30 minutes after a shower or bath.
    • Scrub away mold on pipes and fixtures.
  • Reduce Dust Generators
    • Fabrics and carpeting generate dust, so consider pitching curtains, high-pile carpeting and upholstered furniture in the bedroom.
    • Best bet: washable throw rugs over wood, linoleum or tile floors.
    • Damp mop regularly, and clean walls and other surfaces.
    • If you must have carpeting, make it short, tight pile and vacuum weekly with a cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

Smart Landscaping

  • Make smart selections for the landscape. The yellow, sticky pollen that bees carry from plant to plant rarely causes allergic reactions. It’s the fine, lightweight particles that are blown about by wind that trigger discomfort.
  • Avoid adding allergenic trees like maple, birch and ash to the landscape. Instead, choose low-allergy trees like dogwood, double-flowered cherry and magnolia.
  • Low-allergy flowers include astilbe, impatiens, hosta, scabiosa, columbine and viola.

Tips for the Gardener

  • In the spring, pollen counts are generally highest in the afternoon, so try to garden at a different time of day.
  • In the fall, pollen counts are high early mornings, so try to avoid that.
  • Try to avoid gardening on windy days, since pollen can blow in from all over.
  • Clean yourself up after gardening by changing your clothes, showering, or at least washing your hands and face well.
  • Look for insect-pollinated plants. The showy, flowery kind rather than wind-pollinated plants.
  • Compost piles and damp mulch can produce mold, another allergy source. Keep your compost pile away from where you work and play, and consider possibly using gravel instead of mulch.
  • A hat and breathing mask can help cut down on pollen exposure also.

So remember, be aware of what you’re allergic to and when those allergens are at their highest counts.  Know what’s coming your way, keep the house tidy and clean, and follow my landscaping and gardening tips to chuck out those allergens!