Allergies are the result of an immune system run amok; they develop when your body overreacts to a normally harmless substance, such as pollen, cat dander, or dust. About 20 percent of Americans are plagued by allergies. The hallmark symptoms include sneezing, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, itchy eyes, hives, and rashes.
For allergies to things like foods and medications, avoidance is your only option. But for allergies to seasonal things, like pollen, or those in your home, like dust mites, there's a lot you can do to minimize the misery. Here, the best home remedies to soothe allergies and allergy symptoms.
When To Call A Doctor
If you have a known allergy and notice any of the following symptoms, you should see your doctor:
Welts that spring up in response to exposure to an allergen, also known as hives. They may indicate the onset of anaphylactic shock, an allergic reaction severe enough to kill. Seek medical attention promptly.
Wheezing -- a whistling sound when you breathe.
Asthma -- congestion of the chest severe enough to make breathing difficult, often accompanied by wheezing.
An allergy attack that doesn't respond to OTC medications within a week.
Any time your allergy symptoms prevent you from doing things you want to or make you miss work or school.
Hot Water For Laundry
Wash your bedding weekly in water that's at least 130°F to keep dust mites in check. These bugs also live in clothes and carpeting, but their highest concentrations are in beds. If you wash with cold or warm water, you're just giving them a nice swim, and the dryer alone isn't hot enough to kill all of them. If you're concerned about potential burns and scalds from setting your water heater so high, splurge on taking your bedding to a professional laundry service.
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Swiss researchers found that one tablet of the herb butterbur 3 times a day worked just as well as popular antihistamines at alleviating allergy symptoms without causing drowsiness. Herbs can sometimes interfere with other drugs or cause problems in pregnancy, though, so talk with your doctor before taking them. Expert: Woodson Merrell, MD, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Keeping the air clean in your home can bring relief from pollen, mold, and pet dander. HEPA (high-energy particulate arresting) filters are most efficient. This kind of filter has been shown to remove 99% of airborne particles without producing harmful by-products. They're ideal for bedrooms and living rooms, but skip plug-in or desktop models, which aren't powerful enough to make a difference, even in tiny rooms. When buying larger units, note the square footage a purifier can treat, listed on the package. Expert: Hugh Windom, MD, an associate clinical professor of allergy and immunology at the University of South Florida
Keep your home cool and dry to decrease mold and dust mite growth and roach intrusions. One study found that levels of dust mites and other allergens dropped significantly in homes where the relative humidity was lower than 50%. To maintain this level, you may need to run your air conditioner along with a dehumidifier. However, remember to empty the unit's water often and clean it regularly, according to the manufacturer's instructions, to prevent mold growth. Expert: Larry G. Arlian, PhD, research professor and professor emeritus at Wright State University
Use this cleaning staple in humid areas to kill mold. Wipe down the surfaces in your bathroom as needed. You can clean floors, vinyl, tile, and sinks with a solution of 3/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water. Let it stand for 5 minutes, then rinse. (For tough locations, like a basement, you'll want something stronger like a fungicide).
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