Allergies

Allergies Articles

Easy ways you can improve indoor air quality

 Image: © Voyagerix/Getty Images It may feel cozy being sealed in tight against the cold in your home during the chillier months of the year, but for people who are sensitive to indoor allergens or have respiratory problems, winter can exacerbate problems. Stale indoor air and heating systems can increase the amount of allergy-inducing dust mites, pet dander, and mold spores circulating through your house. In late winter and early spring, it may still be too chilly to throw open the windows to pull out the musty air, so while you await the warmer weather it's important to be aware of some of the allergy and respiratory triggers that may be lurking in your surroundings. "Most of the things that cause problems are odorless," says Dr. Nicholas BuSaba, associate professor of otolaryng-ology at Harvard -Medical School. "So, in many cases there's nothing to alert you to the problem." That is, there's nothing other than the symptoms these allergens can trigger — such as respiratory problems (including asthma flare-ups), fatigue and sleepiness, or even digestive issues. More »

Is it a cold or allergies?

Q. I feel like I have a perpetual cold all winter, every winter. I'm stuffy and sneezy and it never seems to get better. Do you think it could be allergies? How can I tell the difference? A. Colds and allergies produce many of the same symptoms: a runny nose, tiredness, and sometimes a sore throat. But they have different causes — a virus causes colds, while allergies are an immune system response to trigger substances, known as allergens. There are ways to distinguish one from the other. Colds sometimes produce a fever, but allergies never do. In addition, if you are suffering from allergies, you may also have itchy, watery eyes, symptoms that won't typically accompany a cold. But perhaps the biggest clue that can help you distinguish between a cold and allergies is the duration of symptoms. Cold symptoms rarely last more than two weeks, but allergies can last as long as you are exposed to the substance that is triggering the reaction. So, if your "cold symptoms" appear at the same time every year and last for an extended period of time, the cause may very well be allergies. Many people with seasonal allergies will experience symptoms for six weeks at a time. If you are allergic to something in your home, such as dust mites, mold, or pet dander, your symptoms could get worse during the winter months, because the house is sealed up and fresh air isn't getting in. In addition, your heating system may be recirculating the allergen. Because your symptoms last for an extended period of time, it may be worth a visit to the allergist. — by Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch (Locked) More »

Is stress making your allergy symptoms worse?

Spring allergies are a stressful business. Coping with watery eyes, a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, or a sore throat affects how you get through each day. "The primary consequence is a reduced quality of life. This naturally can lead to stress on patients and their families," says Dr. Ahmad Sedaghat, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. The influence goes both ways: not only can allergies cause stress, but stress can make allergies worse. The gooey mess of allergies is the result of an overactive immune system — one that reacts against harmless foreign substances, like tree or plant pollen, as if they were a dangerous threat. The substances that provoke allergies are called allergens. More »

Is your home a haven for allergens?

A study published Nov. 30, 2017, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that 90% of homes have three or more allergens, with at least one allergen at high levels in 73% of homes. More »

Sniffing out sinus relief

Chronic sinusitis strikes when inflammation leads to swelling within the lining of the sinuses. This can interfere with normal drainage, cause mucus buildup, and make it hard to breathe through the nose. Over-the-counter treatments and home remedies can often control the problem, although surgery is sometimes needed for severe cases. (Locked) More »

Think twice before going gluten-free

It appears that gluten does not prevent heart problems. People who eat low amounts of gluten often have diets low in whole grains. Restricting whole grains may be bad for heart health. More »

The secret to an easier allergy season

Pretreating allergies before the season starts will lead to better control of symptoms and may prevent symptoms from showing up. This is partly because some drugs, such as corticosteroid nasal sprays, take a few weeks to become fully effective. It’s also because the reaction to even a few allergens has a snowball effect. Only certain allergy medications should be used in advance, including corticosteroid nasal sprays and antihistamines. But antihistamines can sometimes cause drowsiness, which can lead to falls, so they are not recommended for older adults. More »

What to do about sinusitis

Sinusitis occurs when blocked sinuses cannot drain and the backed-up mucus gets infected. The simplest and often most effective treatment is daily nasal irrigation. It can also help to drink a lot of water, inhale steam, and sleep with the head elevated. More »