Allergies are becoming more common than ever before. They are now the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. If your allergies are interfering with your life, you may be wondering how to get rid of them.
Allergies happen when your immune system mistakes a harmless substance for a foreign invader. When you come into contact with that substance, or allergen, your immune system releases antibodies. Antibodies produce chemicals, like histamine, that cause symptoms such as itching, runny nose, and congestion. Common allergens include:
- pet dander from cats and dogs
- certain foods
It’s unlikely that you can get rid of a food allergy, though sometimes children outgrow food allergies. You may be able to get rid of environmental allergies, however. Read on to learn what you can do to manage and possibly eliminate your allergies.
How you can stop allergies from affecting you
Allergies can seriously affect your quality of life. While there are many options available for treating allergy symptoms, many people want a better solution. There are steps you can take to prevent your allergy symptoms from bothering you.
Allergy shots, which are also known as allergen immunotherapy, are a long-term treatment option for people with severe allergy symptoms. Allergy shots can decrease symptoms such as:
They work well for most airborne triggers, including:
- pet and cockroach dander
Allergy shots work by desensitizing you to the things you are allergic to. If your allergies are caused by pollen and cats, your injections will include tiny amounts of pollen and cat dander. Over time, your doctor slowly increases the allergen amounts in your injection.
Allergy shots are given at frequent intervals over the course of three to five years. In the first few months you’ll need to go to a doctor’s office for an injection twice per week. After that, you’ll need to go every few weeks. It can take months to notice a decrease in symptoms.
Once treatment is completed, many people remain allergy-free for the rest of their lives. Some people may find that symptoms return after stopping the shots, however.
Home HEPA filters
Air filters and purifiers are designed to remove allergens from the air inside your home. There are different types of air filters available, and some work better than others.
To clean the air throughout your home, an air filter can be installed in your heating, ventilation, or air-conditioning system. If your home has forced air ventilation, switching your current filter to a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can make a big difference.
These filters work by trapping particles as air passes through. You can also hire a professional to come in and clean out your ducts to remove additional allergens. This process can be expensive, but you shouldn’t need to do it more than once every 2 to 5 years.
HEPA filters are great at removing large particles from the air, including:
- dust mites
- pet dander
- some types of mold
They can also filter smaller particles, like viruses, bacteria, and smoke. When used properly, HEPA filters can remove about 99.9 percent of particles above a certain size.
If you don’t have a forced air system, you can get a portable HEPA filter. These mechanical filters draw in dirty air, trap particles in the filter, and release clean air. These machines are designed for small spaces and are only capable of filtering a certain amount of air. Keep them in places where you spend the most time, such as your bedroom, office, or living room.
HEPA filters are the top-rated type of air filter, but you should do your research before purchasing one. Check to see if your filter or air cleaner is certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
About one-third of your day is spent in bed. Making your bedroom an allergy-free zone can help you feel better throughout the day. Your sheets, pillows, and comforters make a cozy home for dust mites, pet dander, and mold.
Hypoallergenic bedding is made from materials that provide an effective barrier against these allergens. This prevents allergens from accumulating inside your pillows and comforters.
Designed to be easily cleaned, hypoallergenic bedding can withstand the wear of a frequent wash cycle. Washing your bedding in hot water is critical to preventing the accumulation of allergens.
Hypoallergenic comforters and pillows are usually down-free, because bedding made with goose down easily accumulates dust mites and mold. Down bedding is also very difficult to wash and dry.
Hypoallergenic bedding is free of irritating chemicals, so it’s also a good option for people with sensitive skin.
Other steps you can take
There’s not much you can do to protect yourself from allergies when you are outside, but you should strive to make your home as allergy-free as possible. Combining a variety of different allergen-reducing techniques can make you more comfortable.
These techniques include:
- Cut down on pet dander. Consider a hypoallergenic dog or give your dog or cat weekly baths to reduce dander accumulation. If your pet has long hair, consider getting them shaved. Keep your dog or cat out of your bedroom.
- Eradicate dust mites. Keep your home clean and uncluttered, get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting, and put protective covers on furniture cushions to keep your home free of dust mites.
- Vacuum. Vacuuming twice per week with a vacuum containing a HEPA filter reduces airborne allergens.
- Dehumidify. Mold thrives in moist, warm environments. Air out your bathroom after showers or run a dehumidifier to suck moisture from the air.
- Get rid of houseplants. House plants make a great home for dust mites and mold spores. Reduce your number of house plants and get rid of dried flowers.
- Control cockroaches. Cockroaches are common in urban areas and in the southern United States. Set traps and avoid leaving out food.
How you can manage your allergy symptoms
It’s not always possible to prevent allergy symptoms. Often, you can only treat symptoms as they arise. There are many prescription and over-the-counter options available, including:
- antihistamines (Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin)
- decongestant nasal sprays (Afrin)
- corticosteroid nasal sprays (Rhinocort, Flonase)
- antihistamine or corticosteroid eye drops
- oral decongestants (Zyrtec D, Allegra D)
- corticosteroid asthma inhalers
How to identify what you’re allergic to
Identifying substances that you are allergic to is a critical part of allergy treatment. This way, you can avoid them in the future.
There are many different types of allergies, so ask your doctor about the best allergy tests for diagnosing your symptoms. Most often, allergists perform skin prick tests. These involve injecting tiny amounts of several common allergens to see if they provoke a reaction. Skin prick tests are different than allergy shots.
It won’t always be possible to completely get rid of your allergies, but you may be able to reduce your symptoms. There are also many steps you can take to reduce your likelihood of encountering allergens in your home. It will take a combination of different tactics to free your home of allergens.
You can also consider long-term immunotherapy treatments. In the meantime, talk with your doctor about medications that can help manage your symptoms.
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