Manage Your Allergies

Step one: find out what triggers your symptoms

There are effective drug treatments for allergies, but the best way to get relief is to identify what’s making you sneeze and stay away from it.

You’ll prevent an allergic reaction, an almost unstoppable process known as the "allergic cascade." Sound pretty? It’s not. A cascade starts when you breathe in an allergen and ends when you’re miserable.

Breathing in just a few molecules of your allergen can trigger it. Your body mistakenly identifies them as a threat, kicking your immune system into overdrive. You get the side effects: sneezing, coughing and runny nose.

Out, Out, Darn Allergen!

At first glance, avoidance seems like a piece of cake: no allergen, no symptoms, no problem. But playing hide-and-seek with invisible allergens isn't easy for anyone and it's positively life-consuming for some. However else you manage your symptoms, though, it’s an essential first step.

Start by identifying your allergen(s). Do symptoms kick in only when you go outside? When you’re home? When you’re visiting your friend with three dogs? While picking garden zinnias?

If you have seasonal outdoor allergies, it's not enough to say "it's pollen." Identifying whether it's grass, weed or tree pollen makes it easier to avoid, and if you can drill deeper—not just “tree” pollen but oak—you stand an even better chance of avoiding it.

You may be allergic to more than one thing, of course. Many people are. If you’re having trouble tracking down your allergens, schedule a visit with an allergist. He or she should be able to use a simple skin test to determine exactly what you are allergic to, even if it's more than one thing.

Strategies

How you stay away from allergens depends on what they are. If timothy grass ticks you off, learn about low-allergen grass seed mixes. If dust undoes you, get the right kind of vacuum cleaner. If mold’s making you feel old, discover how to kill it and keep it from coming back. The following articles give you the skinny on avoiding allergens inside your house, in your garden, even on your pet.

Avoiding an allergen is rarely easy, but once you know what to look out for and get used to being on your guard, you'll notice you're reaching for the tissues far less.

Reviewed by: Marc J. Sicklick, MD, FAAAAI, FACAAI

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