Produce with pollen-like proteins:
If you’re sneezing and sniffling, you could also have a problem eating some fruits and veggies. It’s called oral-allergy syndrome (OAS), and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates up to a third of pollen allergy patients may be affected. You can blame a protein found on the surface of some raw produce, including apples, tomatoes, and cantaloupe, though each pollen allergy has its own set of trigger foods.
“Pollen and food proteins are like first cousins,” said Dr. Cliff Bassett, founder of Allergy and Asthma Care in New York City. “So your body thinks you’re swallowing pollen.”
This usually leads to bothersome symptoms, like an itchy throat and mouth as well as cough. Peeling produce may help to reduce your reaction, Dr. Bassett said. Even cooking the produce may help. Just be careful—research shows about 2 percent of people with OAS have symptoms than can progress to potentially life-threatening anaphylactic shock, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
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When the pollen counts get bad, you may want to stick to wearing your glasses.
“If you trap pollen in your eyes and it stays there, you may experience more problems,” said Dr. David Rosenstreich, director of Allergy and Immunology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York.
Soft contact lenses especially are prone to absorbing airborne irritants, like pollen or smoke, because they’re permeable. A soft lens lets more oxygen through but can absorb anything in the tears, said Dr. Steven Shanbom, a board-certified ophthalmologist out of metro Detroit. If you’re set on wearing contacts and don’t like hard lenses, you may want to look into disposable ones you can throw out daily to prevent pollen buildup.
Stress leaves you on edge—and more prone to sniffles. A recent study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology tracked the stress levels of 179 people with hay fever. Over two 14-day periods, Ohio State University researchers found that 64 percent who reported higher stress levels also experienced more than four flare-ups. The good news is there’s an easy solution to this allergy trigger: chill out. Whether it’s meditation or getting some shut-eye, find things to help you relax so your symptoms are more bearable.
“When you don’t feel well and you’re anxious, that’s when your symptoms tend to be worse,” Rosenstreich said.
Ever felt stuffed-up after drinking a glass of red wine? You’re not alone. Alcohol, and red wine in particular, can make allergies go haywire.
“Some people are very sensitive to the sulfites, and it makes their allergies a lot worse,” Rosenstreich said.
These compounds occur naturally in both beer and wine. A Danish study in Clinical & Experimental Allergy found that women who had more than 14 drinks a week were 78 percent more likely to develop a perpetually stuffy nose compared to women who drank less.
Taking the wrong medication
Walking down the allergy meds aisle at the pharmacy can prove overwhelming—there are dozens of drugs to choose from and they all promise to cure your sniffles and sneezing. But most of them can be lumped into one of two categories: antihistamines and decongestants. The trick is knowing which over-the-counter medications will best treat your symptoms. An antihistamine typically relieves sneezing, itchiness, and runny nose, while decongestants combat congestion from swollen nasal passages. Some drugstore options may come packaged with both, but you would only need to use a decongestant if your nose is stuffed up in addition to your other symptoms. If bothersome symptoms persist, that’s when you should really see an allergist, Basset said.
Perfume and candles
Anything with fragrance added can irritate the lining of the eyelids and nasal passages, said Bassett. That includes perfume, scented candles, incense, and holiday decorations. Whether you’re in a department store or walking down the street, it’s nearly impossible to avoid every smell out there, so your best defense is to eliminate these irritants from your home and to medicate yourself to ease symptoms when you encounter them in public.
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Swimming in a chlorinated pool—and even just sitting near one—can be just as bad for your allergies as candles and perfume.
“Chlorine is an irritating gas and will do the same thing that fumes will,” Rosenstreich said. “If you can smell it, that means it’s getting in your body.”
Indoor pools are worse than outdoor ones because the chlorine is contained to a smaller space.
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