Avoid common pitfalls in the combat against allergies

More than 50 million Americans battle allergies each year – and pollen produced by trees, grasses and weeds is frequently the cause. While pollen is harmless to some, the immune system of someone allergic releases antibodies to eliminate what it perceives as a danger. The histamines released during that process cause your eyes, nose and throat to swell, itch and produce mucus.

Even if you know all about pollen, you may not know the best ways to combat it. Avoid these common spring allergy mistakes that can prolong suffering or worsen symptoms.

Mistake No. 1: Waiting too long to medicate. For best results, take allergy medicine even before symptoms begin. Why? Allergy medications stop histamines from triggering a reaction. Symptoms mean histamines have started to build, so the treatment has to fight an uphill battle.

Mistake No. 2: Not knowing your triggers. When you start sneezing in the spring, you may assume it's pollen, but you also may be sensitive to other year-round allergens, such as dust and mold. An allergist can perform a simple skin test to reveal what substances make you miserable.

Mistake No. 3: Not cleaning up after time outdoors. Take a quick shower to wash away hair and skin allergens, especially before bedtime, so it won't irritate you as you sleep.

Mistake No. 4: Opening the windows. The warm spring breezes are pleasant and refreshing –but jam-packed with pollen. Keep windows in your home and car closed to stop pollen from drifting inside.

Mistake No. 5: Not removing allergens from inside the home. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) suggests HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters for single rooms and a "whole house" filtration if you have an HVAC system. However, filters must be changed diligently. The ACAAI also suggests you:

Avoid common pitfalls in the combat against allergies

• Do not smoke.

• Groom your pet outside.

• Keep humidity levels below 50 percent, but not with vaporizers or humidifiers.

• Remove shoes, and other clothing pollen clings to, at the door.

• Scrub tiled areas frequently to prevent mold growth.

• Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.

Mistake No. 6: Being unaware of cross-reactivity, or when pollen-like proteins are found in another substance, like food. Oral allergy syndrome, or pollen fruit syndrome, can cause itching, tingling and swelling in the mouth when you consume raw fruits and vegetables. For example, if you have a birch pollen allergy, you might experience a reaction to apples and pitted fruits such as cherries, plums, peaches and apricots. If you have a grass allergy, you might want to avoid watermelon, tomatoes and oranges. The good news is cooking these foods destroys the protein responsible for the cross-reaction.

Mistake 7: Going solo. The key is to know what triggers your pollen reactions, but you can't stop there. The biggest mistake is trying to treat allergy symptoms yourself. Your doctor can pinpoint the source of your suffering and recommend treatments that work.

If you have concerns about allergies and would like to speak with a provider, visit NW-Physicians.com today to find a physician near you.