If the drip, sniff, sneeze, and itch of allergies have you thinking of buying stock in the company that makes Kleenex, dry your eyes and prepare to take action.
You’re going to wage battle inside your house and even inside your body to reduce the number of allergy attacks you suffer and minimize those so-annoying symptoms. Allergies may not be life-threatening, but they’re nothing to sneeze at either. Here are 20 of the best ways to protect yourself.
1. Choose chicken instead of beef. A two-year study of 334 adults with hay fever and 1,336 without found those who had the most trans oleic acid in their diets, a form of monounsaturated fat found primarily in meat and dairy products, were nearly three times as likely to have hay fever as those who ate the least. Don’t worry, olive oil is okay; although it’s got a lot of oleic acid, it’s not the “trans” form.
2. Pop a fish-oil supplement every morning after you brush your teeth. A study of people with allergic asthma (asthma caused by allergies) found those who took daily fish-oil supplements for a month had lower levels of leukotrienes, chemicals that contribute to the allergic reaction.
3. Turn on the AC. Air conditioners remove mold-friendly moisture and filter allergens entering the house. Just make sure to clean or change the filters often or you’ll just make things worse.
4. Eat one kiwifruit every morning. They’re rich in vitamin C, which acts as a natural antihistamine. Some studies link low levels of C with allergies. When your allergies are flaring up, consider taking a vitamin C supplement.
5. Steam vacuum your furniture and carpets and include a solution of disodium octaborate tetrahydrate (DOT), a boron-based product, in the water. A 2004 study published in the journal Allergy found DOT cut dust mite populations and their associated allergen levels to undetectable levels for up to six months.
6. Take 250 milligrams of quercetin three times a day. This natural supplement is a potent anti-inflammatory flavonoid, and it is widely used in natural medicine practices to fight allergies.
7. Clean out your gutters and make sure they’re not clogged. Clogged gutters can result in water seeping into the house, leading to mold growth, which can exacerbate allergies. Next time it rains, check your gutters. If you see water leaking out of end caps, flowing on the outside, or dripping behind them, it’s time to get out the ladder.
8. Always run the exhaust fan and/or leave the window and door open when taking a shower or bath. Another option is to run a small portable fan (away from water sources) during and after showers. Again, you’re trying to keep surfaces dry and prevent the growth of mold. Also, check to see that the vent on the outside of your house where the exhaust exits isn’t blocked by leaves.
9. Wash the shower curtain in hot water and bleach every month. Or use a shower liner that you can replace every couple of months for just a few bucks.
10. Keep your thermostat set above 65°F in the winter. If you set it too low, you’re encouraging the growth of mold in damp air. The heat dries out the air, preventing mold growth. Of course, too-dry air can also irritate your lungs and sinuses. The perfect humidity in a home is around 50 percent.
11. Wash all your bedding in very hot water every week. It’s the best way to kill those pesky microscopic dust mites that love your bed even more than you do.
12. Follow your dryer vent and make sure it’s vented to the outside. For every load of laundry you dry, 20 pounds of moisture has to go somewhere! If your dryer is vented to the garage or basement, you’re just asking for mold buildup.
13. Clean the tray under the fridge with a bleach solution and sprinkle with salt. The tray is a veritable mold magnet. Adding salt reduces the growth of mold and bacteria. Also, clean under the refrigerator occasionally; food can become trapped there, become moldy, and the mold spores are blown into the kitchen every time the compressor kicks in.
14. Water your plants sparingly and put pebbles on top of the dirt to discourage mold spores from getting into the air. Overwatering houseplants can contribute to the growth of mold. Also, water might leak through the plant onto the carpet.
15. Spend this weekend decluttering. Throw out or give away coats and other clothing you haven’t used in the past year. Put sports equipment in the garage or basement where it belongs. Slip shoes into hanging shoe bags. When you finish, you should be able to see all your closets’ floors and back walls. Now give everything a good vacuum and you’ll have significantly reduced the amount of dust in your house.
16. Keep your bedroom door shut so your dog and/or cat can’t get in. Let him bark or meow. You spend more time in your bedroom than any other room of the house, and this keeps down cat and dog dander, to which many people are allergic.
17. Choose a doormat made of synthetic material. Doormats made of natural material (wicker, etc.) can break down and become excellent feeding grounds for mites, mold, and fungus, and then get tracked into the house. Wash all mats weekly.
18. Clean all dead insects from your porch lights. As they decompose, they can become an allergen source.
19. Put a shelf by the front door for shoes and encourage your family and guests to remove their shoes before entering to reduce the amount of dust, mold, and other allergens tracked in. Keep some soft slippers in a basket by the front door for people who don’t want to walk around in their stocking feet.
20. Read labels and avoid foods that contain the additive monosodium benzoate. An Italian study found that monosodium benzoate triggered allergy-like symptoms, including runny, stuffy nose, sneezing, and nasal itching, in adults without allergies. The preservative is often found in juices, pie fillings, pickles, olives, and salad dressings.