Friday, April 24, 2009

Health Care and Environmental Allergies

Millions of Americans have airborne allergies. Typically, these are a result of exposure to allergens in the environment in which they live, work, and play. According to TheHealthPages.com, environmental allergies are your body's response to substances you inhale at your home, school or workplace. They can be caused by dust, animal dander, mold spores or mildew, or feathers. Dust and mold allergies are different from pollen allergies because they cause problems all year round--not just at certain seasons.

Environmental allergies may cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes and they may cause coughing and wheezing according to TheHealthPages.com. The best way to control environmental allergies is to avoid the things that cause them. The first step is to find out what is producing the allergic reaction. For example, if your reaction develops at night or when you wake up in the morning, the cause may be a feather pillow or dust mites in the bedding. Or, perhaps you notice a reaction when you sit on a couch where your pet likes to sleep. If a reaction occurs when you clean house, you may be allergic to house dust. Once you think you've found the case, try to eliminate it from your environment. For example, use a dacron or polyester pillow (but not foam rubber, because mold spores can grow in it). Use synthetic blankets. If house cleaning sets you off, have someone else do it or at least wear a mask while you clean. If your reaction dies down when you leave your house, it may be caused by a pet. Vacuum carpets, furniture and other places where pets have been. Keep pets out of the bedroom. If the problem persists, you may have to find a new home for the pet or at least keep it outdoors. If the cause is dust mites, dust mite avoidance measures are helpful. Dust mites are microscopic bug-like creatures that live in pillows, blankets, mattresses, stuffed animals, carpets and cloth-covered furniture. 95% of house dust allergies are caused by dust mites. You can help by covering your pillows, mattress, and box spring with a zippered, soft plastic cover that is labeled "allergy proof".

You can buy the allergy proof covers at bedding shops and large department stores according to the TheHealthPages.com. A bare floor is best, with only a small area rug. If you must have carpet, choose a synthetic or cotton carpet with a tight weave and a very short pile. Change the central heating filter once a month to cut down on dust and other allergens in the air. If you can't eliminate or avoid the cause of your reaction, you may be able to control the allergy. And, antihistamine medications can help. If they don't provide enough relief, call your health care provider. Your provider can evaluate your problem, and perhaps prescribe a stronger medication. Your provider may send you to an Allergist for further evaluation, including a detailed history of your allergy problem and possibly skin test to identify substances that cause it. You may then be given desensitization injections or "allergy shots". Whether the treatment is non-prescription antihistamines, a doctor's prescription, or injections, the treatment works best if you combine it with avoidance of the things that cause your allergic reaction.

Remember these key points:
1.) Environmental allergies may be caused by a variety of substances, especially animal dander, molds and dust mites.
2.) To identify the cause, note where you have an allergic reaction; then take steps to avoid the probable cause.
3.) When you know the cause, continue to avoid it. If that does not work, your health care provider can evaluate your condition and make recommendations, prescribe medication, or possibly refer you to an Allergist for further study.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, medicines help treat your allergy symptoms once you have them, but there are several steps you can take to prevent symptoms before they occur. The following recommendations can help you avoid allergy attacks whether you're at home, outdoors, or out on the town.
1.) At home:
--Keep windows closed and use air conditioning if you are allergic to pollen; don't use fans, as they can stir up dust.
--Filter the air. Cover air conditioning vents with cheesecloth to filter pollen and use a high efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) if you have a forced air furnace. Clean air filters frequently and air ducts at least once a year.
--Keep the humidity in your house below 50 percent to prevent mold growth. Avoid areas where molds may collect, including basements, garages, crawl spaces, barns, compost heaps; clean these areas often.
--Install dehumidifiers in basements and other areas of the house where mold may collect; clean these devices every week. Air out damp clothes and shoes (in the house) before storing.
--If you have pets, consider keeping them outside, or perhaps ask someone else to take care of them; animal dander and saliva are common allergens for many people. Otherwise, do not allow pets in the bedroom and be sure to bathe pets often. Do not allow pets to sit on the furniture.
--Close air ducts in the bedrooms.
--Remove laundry from the washing machine promptly; don't leave wet clothes in the washer.
--Wash shower curtains and bathroom tiles with mold-killing solutions.
--Don't collect too many indoor plants, as the soil encourages mold growth.
--Store firewood outside.
--Use plastic covers for pillows, mattresses, and box springs. Avoid overstuffed furniture and down-filled bedding or pillows. Remove stuffed animals from the bed.
--Wash your bedding every week in hot water, hotter than 130 degrees F.
--Don't allow smoking in your house.
--Wear a mask and gloves when cleaning, vacuuming, or painting to limit dust and chemical exposure.
--Vacuum twice a week.
--Limit throw rugs to reduce dust and mold. If you do have rugs, make sure they are washable.
When possible, choose hardwood floors instead of carpeting. If you must have carpeting, choose low pile material.
--Avoid Venetian blinds or long drapes, as they collect dust. Replace old drapes and use window shades instead.
--Make sure there is an exhaust fan over the stove to remove cooking fumes.
2.) Driving:
--Keep windows closed and set the air conditioner on re-circulate if you are allergic to pollen.
3.) Outdoors:
--Minimize walks in wooded areas or gardens.
--Check the forecast; stay indoors as much as possible on hot, dry, windy days when pollen counts are generally the highest.
--Try to avoid extreme temperature changes, as they are triggers for some people with asthma.
--If possible, stay indoors between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. when outdoor pollen counts are usually the highest.
--Wear a mask (such as an inexpensive painter's mask) when mowing the lawn if you are allergic to grass pollen or mold; if possible, avoid mowing and being around freshly cut grass.
--Wear a mask when gardening, as flowers and some weeds release pollen and can cause allergy symptoms.
--Avoid raking the leaves or working with hay or mulch if you are allergic to mold.
--After being outdoors, take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes to remove pollen that may have collected in your clothes and hair.
--Wear shoes and long pants and sleeves, and do not wear scented deodorants, perfumes, shampoos, or hair products in order to protect yourself from insect stings.
--Dry clothes in a dryer. Don't hang clothes or linens out to dry, as pollen and molds may collect in them and can make your allergies worse.
4.) Traveling:
--Pack your medications with you in your carry-on bag.
--Bring an extra supply of medications in case you need them.
5.) Hotel stays:
--Ask for a nonsmoking room.
--Remove feather pillows and ask for synthetic, non-allergenic pillows, or bring your own pillow or plastic pillow cover from home.
--If possible, keep the vent on the room air conditioner shut.
6.)Dining:
--Eat in smoke-free restaurants.
--For food allergies: avoid the foods that cause your allergy symptoms by carefully reading ingredient labels and asking about the food preparation methods when dining out. Choose fresh foods rather than prepared or processed foods. If you have severe symptoms, such as anaphylaxis, carry an epinephrine injection kit (EpiPen or Ana-Kit or Twinject) with you at all times.
7.) For children in school:
--Discuss your child's allergies with school personnel.
--Inform school personnel about the medications your child is taking and make arrangements to leave necessary medications at school.
--Encourage sports participation, but inform coaches of medications that your child may need to take before activities.

Symptoms depend on what you're exposed to, how much of it, how often, and for how long according to HowStuffWorks.com. They can include itching and burning eyes, rashes, sore throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Factors that contribute to susceptibility include your age, a history of allergies, your general health, and your overall level of stress. Environmental allergies are difficult to pinpoint and harder to avoid.

Allergy season can be a rough time of the year for those people who suffer from hayfever and other outdoor allergens. However, if you are dealing with chronic allergy symptoms, see your doctor for tips on what to do to prevent ongoing problems. There are great medications that can control allergies or soften the blow if you have severe problems. Even over the counter medications such as Claritin, Zyrtec, and Benedryl can help. Talk to your pharmacist to find what may be available options if you are not currently needing an allergist or family doctor. The important factor is to lessen the sneezing, coughing, and other physical problems related to allergies. A little common sense and practical treatment will go a long way to make you feel better. Do yourself a favor, and get help for the common problems associated with allergies.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

2 comments:

camilynn said...

Hi,

You have a nice blog. I just thought of mentioning about this website www.dustmitesallergies.org. They seem to offer specialized advice of dust mites allergies.

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