10 Really Simple and Cheap Ways to Reduce Allergies in the Home

There are many different ways to reduce the allergens in your home.  You may have already heard of some of the more expensive suggestions like tearing out your carpeting and installing hardwood floors or getting rid of all your drapes and replacing them with sleek window treatments.  However, not everyone has the means to go to such extremes.  With that in mind, the following suggestions can really help relieve your allergies without draining your bank account.

Take off your Shoes at the Door

This may seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but you’d be surprised at how many people suffering from allergies overlook this simple preventative measure.  Your shoes are probably the guiltiest item of clothing for picking up allergens from the outside.  If you’re shoes stay on, you’re transferring all those allergens directly to your carpet and the air you breathe.  Make your guests remove their shoes as well.  Don’t be shy.  While you’re at it, place a welcome mat both outside and inside your front door.  This encourages people to wipe their feet out of habit.  More wipey, less tracky.  Place mats can also help when it comes to pets running in and out of the house.

Keep Pets out of the Bedroom

This one may be tough for some of you pet-lovers, but keeping Fluffy out of the room you sleep in will do wonders to keep your allergies under control.  If you already allow your pets to sleep in your room or heaven-forbid, on the bed with you, it’s not too late to take care of the problem.  It will be hard for both of you at first, but eventually everyone will adapt.  Keep the bedroom door closed during the day and make sure you spend quality time with your pets before you retire for the evening.  There may be a lot of door scratching and barking or meowing at first, so if you have to, put the pets in a kennel during the evening until they get used to the new sleeping arrangements.

Keep Doors and Windows Closed when Pollen Counts are High

This is another no-brainer.  The goal is to keep allergens out of the house, so why would you keep doors or windows open, allowing all those allergens to walk right in?  Hopefully you have air-conditioning that you can run on hot days.

Don’t Hang Clothes Outside to Dry

This is one of the worst things you can do, especially when pollen counts are high.  You might save a little money by not running your drier, but the price you pay for all those allergens coming into the house stuck to your clothes, is much worse.  Wet or damp clothes hanging on a line are like magnets to allergens.

Run a Dehumidifier

Humidity is a killer for people with allergies.  If the relative humidity in your house is 60% or more, try to run a dehumidifier in every room in which you spend any amount of time.  Dehumidifiers are not that expensive, and a small one can handle a fairly large living area.  If you can’t have one in every room, at least run one in the bedroom at night while you’re sleeping.  You’ll thank yourself later.

Vacuum at least twice a week

Shark Professional Navigator Lift-Away Bagless Upright With Choice of Bonus Stick Vacuum
Vacuum more often if you have shedding pets or live in a dusty area.  The dust mites and pet dander that can accumulate in your carpeting is mind boggling.  Make sure you’re using the right kind of vacuum, and I don’t mean one that has a HEPA filter.  Pretty much every vacuum on the market today has a HEPA filter, but if the vacuum is not designed properly, the filter will do you absolutely no good.  Don’t get me wrong, you need the HEPA filter, but most vacuums release the particles they’ve sucked up into the air before they even reach the filter.  You don’t need to spend a fortune on your vacuum either.  The Shark Navigator Lift-Away, for example, is very affordable and uses a complete seal design that prevents all those allergens from releasing back into the air.  Another benefit of the Shark is that it’s designed to handle pet hair much better than many of the other vacuum brands.  We love the Shark at our house and I’m even able to vacuum without triggering my allergies.  I could never do that with any of the other vacuums we’ve owned.

Cover Mattresses and Pillows with Dust Mite Covers

If you haven’t tried a dust mite cover before, prepare to be amazed.  These are relatively inexpensive covers that typically zip around your mattress and pillows.  They work by keeping the dust mites and their allergens inside the mattress and pillows and away from you.  The material used in these covers is membrane free, meaning that the pore size or spaces between the fibers is smaller than the allergens.  There are quite a few brands and grades of covers on the market.  You’ll usually pay more for comfort (obviously) and smaller pore sizes.  The important thing to remember when purchasing one of these covers is that the allergens from dust mites are typically in the 8 to 10 micron range.  Anything smaller than that will do just fine at keeping the allergens inside the covers.

Keep your Bathrooms Dry

Mold and mildew can cause havoc on people with allergies.  The best place in your home for mold to take hold is in your bathrooms and under your cabinet-ed sinks.  Keeping these areas dry and mold-free is very important.  When you’re finished showering or bathing, wipe down all surfaces.  Keep your bathrooms well ventilated and, if possible, bathe with the door opened.  Regularly scrub down your bathrooms and under sinks with mold and mildew removers.  Also, you should re-caulk sinks, tubs, and tiles every couple years (or as needed) to discourage mold growth behind walls.  Check under your sinks often to make sure there are no leaks or spills.

Install Anti-Allergy Filters in your Furnace and Air Conditioner

There are lots of brands to choose from but the most popular is probably Filtrete filters made by 3M.  I don’t have a furnace in my current house since we use ceiling radiant heat panels (much cheaper and more efficient), but we’ve always used 3M filters in our older houses and have been very satisfied.  When purchasing a furnace filter from 3M, make sure you pay attention to the MPR rating or Micro-particle Performance Rating.  The MPR system was developed by 3M to demonstrate a filter’s ability to capture the smallest airborne particles from 0.3 to 1 micron.  Other products use the MERV or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, which measures a filter’s ability to capture large particles.  We still use the Filtrete filters for our window air conditioners and are still very pleased with the performance.

 Drink More Water

Yeah, I know, this isn’t just for the home, but it’s a very important tip that everyone should follow.  Everyone knows that water is good for you and you should drink lots of it.  You’ve probably heard how drinking more water increases energy, relieves fatigue, flushes out toxins, maintains regularity, and the list goes on and on.  When it comes to addressing allergies, there are two main reasons for drinking more water.  The first is very simple, in that water helps to thin out your nasal membranes, thereby lessening irritation.  The second reason is more complex because it works directly with your immune system. Research has proven that even mild dehydration activates histamine production, which as well all know, is strongly implicated in allergies.  When you have a healthy, adequate hydration level, it decreases the need for and production of histamine.

 

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Pollen – Number One on the Allergy Most Wanted List

For three seasons out of every year, tiny particles called pollen are released from weeds, trees, and grasses with the apparent purpose of causing distress to a world full of allergy sufferers.  The actual mission of pollen, however,  is to hitch rides on air currents so that they can fertilize other plants miles away.  Unfortunately, many never reach their intended targets and instead wind up in the nasal passages and throats of defenseless humans.  For many of us, this triggers a type of allergic rhinitis also known as hay fever.

Research shows that more people actually suffer from pet allergies than they do from pollen allergies.  So why list pollen as the number one most wanted?  Because there is no escape.  You can easily keep away from Fluffy and Fido if you need to, but try keeping away from an airborne allergy trigger like pollen which has been found hundreds of miles out to sea and 2 miles up?  Unless you’re going to live in a bubble or on another planet, if you’re allergic to pollen, you simply don’t have any place to retreat.

Tree Pollen

The onslaught begins in spring months with the release of tree pollen.  Tree pollen season across most of North America begins in March or April and winds down in June or July.  In some southern states, the tree pollen outbreak can begin as early as January.  Not all trees produce the type of pollen that can easily catch wind currents for distribution, and for some of those that do, the pollen does not seem to effect most people.  The most common pollen producing trees that cause havoc with immune systems are as follows:

  1. Catalpa
  2. Elm
  3. Hickory
  4. Olive
  5. Pecan
  6. Sycamore
  7. Walnut
  8. Ash
  9. Box Elder
  10. Cottonwood
  11. Maple
  12. Poplar
  13. Willow

To a lesser extent, Alder, Beech, the Birch and Oak family and the Juniper and Cedar family also release pollen that can cause allergy problems with some people.  Please note that the female species of the trees listed in 8 thru 13 are totally pollen-free.  It is only the male cultivars of those species that release pollen.

Grass Pollen

During the summer months is when the next pollen attacks occur.  This is when the grasses unleash their fury.  Thankfully, out of about 1,200 species of grass in North America, only very few release pollen that causes allergic reactions.  The following grasses are the most common pollen producing grasses that allergy sufferers should try to avoid:

  1. Bahia
  2. Bermuda
  3. Johnson
  4. Kentucky blue
  5. Orchard
  6. Sweet vernal
  7. Timothy

Weed Pollen

The final attack happens during the Autumn months and is usually the most impacting.  This is the time of year for the weeds to get even with all of us pesky herbicide-spreading humans.  Weeds are the most prolific producers of allergenic pollen among the big three and Ragweed is probably the most well known to allergy sufferers.  A single ragweed plant can generate a million grains of pollen per day.  Although Ragweed is a major player, there are others that can cause equivalent distress.  The following list contains the eight heavy-hitters in North America:

  1. Cocklebur
  2. Dock
  3. Lamb’s Quarter
  4. Marsh Elder
  5. Pigweed
  6. Sage
  7. Ragweed
  8. Russian Thistle (tumbleweed)

So, how is one to defend themselves against the seemingly indefensible?  The best way is to track daily pollen counts in your area and try to stay indoor during peak pollen times.  Pollen counts tend to be highest during morning hours and on dry, windy days.  Stay on top of your allergy medications and drink lots of fluids.

Side Note: – If you’re currently taking prescription or OTC allergy medications and you’re tired of dealing with the side-effects like rapid heart beat, drowsiness or fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, trouble sleeping, etc., then please read this for information that could be life changing.

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How I Dumped my OTC and Prescription Allergy Medications for Good

First off, I want to ensure you that this is not some ploy to lure you into an end-all, be-all allergy cure.  There is no such thing, and if you’ve been reading my posts, you know that’s the case.  I simply want to share with you something I stumbled into not even three years ago that allowed me to completely get rid of my conventional allergy medications and drastically reduce the use of my asthma inhaler.  I’m positive that it can work for you too.

My Story

Like many of you reading this blog, I have had allergies since childhood.  Since I was old enough to swallow a pill I’ve been taking either prescription allergy medications or OTC allergy medications and sometimes a combination of both.  I was diagnosed with environmental allergies early on as well as allergy-induced asthma.  Pet dander and Pollen were the allergens that hit me the hardest, while dust-mites and molds, although irritating, did not seem to take the same toll as the previous two.  Initially, cat and dog dander seemed to be the worst allergens, probably because that’s what I was exposed to the most.  Over the years I’ve managed to build up a tolerance to them and they do not bother me nearly as much as they used to.  I cannot say the same for horses, grasses and weeds.  They were “killers” from the start and still are to this day.

Any time I went outside in the summer or fall, there was a good chance I’d have an allergy attack.  If I was lucky, those attacks would not lead to the impending asthma attack.  My eyes would swell up, itch and water.  My throat itched, my nose ran like a faucet left on, and when things really got bad, my back would start itching like crazy, the wheezing would start, and it was at that point I knew the asthma attack was coming.  It was really a horrible way to live.  When I visited my Uncle’s farm for the first time, I had a chance to ride his pony named Roger.  Bad idea.  The weeds and hay on the farm were bad enough, but I was controlling them for the most part with whatever allergy drug I was taking at the time.  Within 3 minutes of getting near that pony, I was done.  Stick a fork in me done.  The asthma attack didn’t even wait for the signs to start.  It was at that point I realized just how bad horse dander affected me and how serious this allergy and asthma crap could be.

My parents put me on prescription allergy medication as soon as I was old enough since there really wasn’t much over the counter in those days.  I’m certainly dating myself here, but does anyone remember taking an allergy medication called Marax?  Yeah, you remember.  I was on that for years until the FDA decided something was dangerous about it and pulled it off the market.  I just wonder how much it shortened my life being on that bad boy for so many years.  Anyway, since then, up to about three years ago, I was on and off various prescription allergy drugs, as well as some of the more popular OTC drugs like Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra, Zirtec.  I was taking the last three when they were still prescription-only.  I was really sick of the fact that none of them worked unless I took the “-D” formulation for decongestion.  I was also sick and tired of all the side-effects like rapid heart rate, drowsiness, excitability, trouble sleeping, some dizziness now and then, etc.  I still really could not go out on bad pollen days without feeling the effects, and God-forbid, get me anywhere near a horse.  It seemed like my sinuses were still always clogged to some extent and I could never get rid of an intermittent cough.  So, I guess you could say the drugs were sort-of working, just not to an acceptable level.

My Revelation

I was online one day and got to thinking about natural supplements.  I’d had digestive issues over the years and had managed to whip those back into shape by taking natural enzymes and bacterial supplements to help with digestion.  If those supplements could help get my digestive system back into whack, maybe science had come up with a natural way to put my immune system back into whack?  I started Googling and found a lot of holistic and cure-all type remedies, all selling a bunch of hokum, but I also came across this site called Native Remedies.  I’d heard of this company before and I think I’d even seen them on one of the morning news shows.  They’ve been around since the mid to late 90’s. I never gave them much thought, though, because I thought they were more into addressing ADHD, anti-aging, prostate health and the like.  I started poking around on their site and found out that they have a number of 100% all natural products, registered with the FDA, that specifically address allergies and asthma.  I read some of the testimonials and reviews, checked into the company’s history and standing with BBB, and then decided to to give them a try.  They have a one year 100% money back guarantee, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong.  Since the products were all natural, there was very little chance of experiencing disturbing side effects.  At that point, anything would be an improvement over the prescription nonsense I was taking.

I’ve never looked back.  The first product I tried was the AllergiClear Tablets that was primarily touted to keep histamine levels in the normal range. AllergiClear TabletsIt also was supposed to keep sinuses and eyes healthy as well as to support respiratory health. I was mostly interested in keeping histamines at a normal level because I knew that it was an increase in histamine production that triggers allergic symptoms.  The tablets worked just as they were supposed to.  It took about 4 or 5 days before I noticed improvement, but it was a major improvement.  My sinuses were clear, that stupid cough went away and I didn’t even notice the cats and dogs anymore, allergy-wise that is. SOS HistaDrops I also found myself not having to take my albuterol puffs as often, and now I hardly ever have to use my inhaler.  Every now and then, especially when pollen counts were extremely high or when I was stacking or pitching hay to our ranch critters, I still noticed some mild allergy symptoms although not nearly what they would have been before the AllergiClear Tablets.  I decided to try the SOS HistaDrops to see if those would help in those types of situations.  Sure enough, that was just the extra support I needed to keep the allergy symptoms at bay.  I was feeling good and maybe a bit cocky so I thought I’d try to work with one of our horses just to test the waters.  I was amazed when I found I was able to work with the horse and even ride him without experiencing severe symptoms.  A tad snuffly, maybe, but the difference to the usual reaction was night and day.  That was all I needed to see.  Since that time I’ve used nothing except the combination of AllergiClear Tablets and SOS HistaDrops to keep all my allergies at bay.

Give Native Remedies a try and let me know how they work for you.  I’d love to hear your success stories.

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7 Common Allergy Myths

There are hundreds of allergy myths bouncing around society these days and you’ve probably heard at least half of them.  Following are 7 of the most common myths:

  1. Allergies can be Cured
  2. Food Allergies are Common
  3. Short-haired Pets won’t Irritate my Allergies
  4. Moving to the American Southwest will Cure my Allergies
  5. Hay Fever is Caused by Hay
  6. You can Outgrow your Allergies
  7. Flower Pollen is the Leading Cause of Nasal Allergies

Allergies can be Cured

Allergies cannot be cured.  Sorry to those of you who were hoping for a silver bullet solution.  Allergic reactions are triggered when a person’s abnormal immune system reacts to normally harmless substances.  Allergies are caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors, but nobody is certain exactly how or why.  There are ways to treat, prevent and even desensitize oneself against allergy triggers, but we’re talking about an entire immune system here, not a simple sinus infection.  See Is There a Cure for Allergies for more information.

Food Allergies are Common

Actually, it is estimated that only 1 to 3 percent of Americans have actual food allergies.  It’s surprising, because these days it seems like everyone and their brother believes they have some sort of food allergy.  However, research shows that one out of five people believe they have a food allergy when in reality they most likely have a food intolerance or a food sensitivity issue.  What are the differences?  As with any true allergy, a person’s immune system will view a normally harmless substance, such as nuts, milk, eggs, etc. as a harmful entity.  It will then release chemicals to combat these invaders.  This release of chemicals only happens when a person with a true food allergy consumes an allergen and, in these cases, the danger of anaphylaxis is a real possibility.  Someone with a food intolerance or sensitivity may certainly feel like they are dying from gastric pain and vomiting, but since the immune system is not involved, there is no allergic reaction taking place.  The bottom line is that if you believe you have a food allergy, confirm it with your doctor.  You may just need to cut back on certain types of foods.

Short-haired Pets won’t Irritate my Allergies

This is another myth mostly spread by people who do not suffer from allergies.  A person who is allergic to pets is not allergic to the fur, but rather to a protein that is produced in the animal’s skin or saliva called animal dander.  Cats tend to cause more allergy problems than dogs simply because they lick themselves more and spread the animal dander onto their coats.

Moving to the American Southwest will Cure my Allergies

Sorry, but packing up the family and moving to Phoenix is probably not going to help your allergies much.  Areas in the American Southwest such as Phoenix may have less weeds and pollen producing trees than other areas of the United States, but there are many other plants there that produce pollen.  People suffering from pollen-related allergies are likely to become sensitive to the different pollens in their new desert environment.

Hay Fever is Caused by Hay

Hay fever is not caused by hay and is not a fever.  Hay fever is just another name for allergic rhinitis which is another term for nasal allergies.  Hay fever occurs when airborne allergens such as pollen, dust or animal dander is inhaled and causes your typical allergy symptoms such as runny nose, watery/itchy eyes, scratchy throat and cough.

You can Outgrow your Allergies

Actually, the reverse is true.  More people tend to grow into an allergy rather than out of it.  It may appear to some people that they have outgrown an allergy simply because they have learned how to avoid the allergen triggers over time and it has become second nature.  It is practically impossible to avoid all exposure to pollens, molds and dust and repeated exposure to these allergens year after year can lead to chronic allergy symptoms.

Flower Pollen is the Leading Cause of Nasal Allergies

Have you ever heard someone say “I’m having a bad allergy day.  Something must be blooming.”?  In an ironic twist, all those pretty flowering plants that many people blame for their allergies are the least likely plants to trigger an allergic response.  The pollen from flowers tends to be heavy and waxy and can only be transported by insects rather than the wind.  In most cases, light weight tree pollens are the little devils playing havoc with your immune system.

 

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Is There a Cure for Allergies?

The short answer is “no”.  Allergies are triggered by a person’s immune system responding abnormally to typically harmless substances.  This abnormal response causes the release of histamine, primarily, which triggers several allergic symptoms. The cause of  allergies is complex, but includes a person’s genetics combined with other environmental factors.  There are ways to treat and prevent allergy symptoms, but because allergies are rooted in the genes, and because we are talking about an abnormal response of an immune system, allergies cannot be cured.

Allergy triggers can be avoided and may seem like a “cure”, but re-exposure to the guilty allergens would still cause allergy symptoms.  Some allergies can be treated with medications to help reduce allergy symptoms, but these just mask the symptoms and cannot be considered a cure.  Once the medication is stopped, allergy symptoms quickly return.

Perhaps the closest thing to an allergy cure without actually being a cure is Allergen Immunotherapy. Taken in the form of shots, typically, but sometimes drops, this treatment is designed to desensitize the immune system. Once the immune system treats allergens as harmless, the allergy symptoms are reduced or even eliminated.  However, the benefits don’t last a lifetime and the symptoms can recur years later or even sooner.  Once again, the abnormal immune system that is at the root of the problem has not been cured.

Although OTC and prescription medications mask allergy symptoms, there are some proven natural remedies that help support your immune system so that allergic reactions are kept to a minimum or even removed from the picture.  If you are interested in a 100% natural remedy that supports good respiratory health and primarily works to maintain histamine levels within a normal range so that allergy symptoms are curbed, then please click here for more information.

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5 Types of Allergies

There are hundreds, if not thousands of specific allergies that effect people across the planet.  Each of those allergies can be grouped into one of four types of allergies based on the the allergen that causes the symptoms:

  1. Environmental Allergies
  2. Food Allergies
  3. Drug Allergies
  4. Venom Allergies
  5. Latex Allergies

Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergies, also called Allergic Rhinitis, are the most common and well-known and include allergies to pollens, animal dander, dust-mites, and molds.  These allergens enter the body through the air that you breathe.  Once the allergens enter the nose, sinuses, and lungs, the body’s immune system over-reacts and releases chemicals such as histamine that result in an allergic reaction.  People with environmental allergies are at increased risk of developing asthma and eczema.

Some people experience environmental allergies only during specific seasons (seasonal allergies), while others experience them year round.  Symptoms usually occur within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen and usually include sneezing, runny/stuffy nose, sinus pain, itchy/watery eyes, scratchy throat, and post nasal drip.

Although there is no cure for allergies, environmental allergies can be alleviated through medications, allergen avoidance, and allergen immunotherapy.  Some people find relief through all-natural herbal remedies and acupuncture.

Food Allergies

True food allergies only affect about 1% of adults and 2% of children older than pre-school age.  Other problems such as food intolerances are often mistaken for food allergies.  Food intolerances do not involve the immune system so are not potentially life-threatening the way an actual food allergy can be.  An example of a true allergy vs. a food intolerance is a milk allergy vs. lactose intolerance. Some of the more well-known food allergies are to peanuts, tree nuts such as walnuts, shell-fish, milk, and eggs.

Symptoms of food allergies usually begin within an hour of eating the allergen and can include:

    • Tingling, swelling and itching of the lips, mouth or throat
    • Itching skin or rash such as hives
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Diarrhea

Most severe symptoms include severe breathing issues and anaphylaxis.  If you’re not sure whether you have a food allergy or merely a food intolerance, please see an allergy specialist.

Drug Allergies

There is a distinct difference between an allergic reaction to a medication and suffering from a side-effect.  Allergic reactions are more concerning because they can lead to life-threatening anaphylaxis on future exposures.  Certain types of medications such as penicillin or sulfa drugs are the more commonly associated with anaphylaxis.  Unless you experience a rash or throat swelling, then a reaction to a medication is more than likely a side-effect.  If you are uncertain about any reaction you experience after taking a medication, do not take the medication again until you consult your doctor.

Venom Allergies

Some people are allergic to the venom injected into them during an insect bite or sting.  The more severe allergies include reactions to bee, hornet and wasp stings, and can be potentially life-threatening.  Again, the most severe reactions can cause anaphylaxis, so if you experience throat tightening/itching, dizziness and trouble breathing, you need to call 911 immediately.  Most people will experience a localized reaction to an insect sting that includes reddening, itching and swelling.  The swelling can be dramatic if stung on the hands or face, but is normally not considered to be an allergic reaction.  However, a large exposure to venom can lead to future allergic reactions to the same types of stings, so if you do have a dramatic reaction you may want to consult your allergist to be future-safe.

Latex Allergies

Latex is a natural product which comes from a fluid extracted from the rubber tree found in Africa and Southeast Asia.  The number of latex allergies has risen dramatically since the early 80’s, probably because of more and more contact with this rubber product.  It’s estimated that 10% to 12% of people in the medical profession have developed a latex sensitivity or allergy.  The allergic trigger is typically from the trace amount of oil left on the latex product after the manufacturing process.  In the medical field, though, the allergen can sometimes be introduced from the powder that lines the inside of latex gloves.  The latex oil adheres to the powder, and when the glove is snapped while putting it on, the powder can enter the lungs and nasal passages.

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