You may have allergies and not even realize it
Don't expect a hypoallergenic pet to sneezeproof your pad. In a recent Henry Ford Health System study, allergen levels in homes with "hypoallergenic" dogs were found to be no lower than in homes with other breeds. The reason: The particles sloughed off the dog's tongue and saliva, not its fur, are what trigger your reaction, says study author Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D. Plus, pets are often covered in other allergens, such as pollen, dust, and mold.
Your move: The Obamas were smart to adopt Bo, but not because of his so-called allergy-free coat. A dog can be an allergic person's best choice because cat dander is "stickier" and thus tougher to eliminate, says Dr. Reisacher. Shampoo your pooch regularly, and blow-dry its fur on low heat to fight "wet dog" smell, which is caused by mold. Finally, use bleach or a color-safe alternative to destroy any dander clinging to your clothes.
You may associate steroids with meat-heads, but what they use are anabolic steroids, which mimic male hormones. The corticosteroids in nasal sprays, on the other hand, are inflammation-fighting hormones. "They have fewer side effects than antihistamines because they go directly into your nasal tissue instead of throughout your body," says Timothy Mainardi, M.D., an allergist at Columbia University. Studies also show that corticosteroid sprays reduce nasal blockage and discharge more effectively than antihistamines do.
Your move: Start spraying a couple of weeks before your allergy season typically begins, suggests Dr. Mainardi. Red, itchy eyes? Opt for Veramyst, a new corticosteroid spray that controls nasal and eye symptoms. Or pair Nasonex or Flonase with a second-generation antihistamine, such as Claritin or Zyrtec.
If your test results say "allergic to the world," find a new allergist. Skin reactions need to be at least 3 millimeters across to indicate an allergy that can cause symptoms, says Dr. Demain. Another key to avoiding false positives: Share your medical history before testing. If you now eat eggs without problems despite a childhood egg allergy, your allergist can skip that test.
Your move: This is one exam you don't want to cheat on. Avoid antihistamines 3 days prior, since they may dampen your allergic response and skew your results, say Mayo Clinic scientists. And at your appointment, provide the full rundown: timing of your symptoms, family history, suspected triggers, and previously diagnosed allergies. Your allergist will then decide which allergens to test for.
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