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Allergies keep rising
If you’ve been sneezing and tearing up this allergy season, you’re not alone. Allergies of all kinds have skyrocketed in the U.S. and other developed countries but experts aren’t sure what’s causing the increase.
About 54 percent of Americans are sensitive to one or more allergens, according to the National Institutes of Health. Depending on what allergen you’re talking about, the rates are anywhere from two to five times higher than 30 years ago.
Increases are not limited to seasonal allergies. Food allergies in children rose 18 percent from 1997-2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Peanut allergy is becoming more common in kids.
Explanations for the rise are many and varied. One theory is that developed countries are too clean. Our immune systems are malfunctioning because of lack of stimulation from bacteria and germs. The number of autoimmune disorders is disproportionately higher in sterile countries.
Longer growing seasons, brought about by global warming, may be fueling an increase in environmental allergies. Researchers have found that plants are flowering earlier and producing more pollen.
Another cause for the spike in allergies may be air pollution. Chemicals and other pollutants in the air may be making allergies worse.
At this point, there is not one clear answer for why we are suffering but there are some strategies for coping.
•Limit your exposure by keeping your windows shut in both your house and car. Avoid prolonged exposure outside between 10 a.m.-3 p.m. when allergen levels are at their highest. Shower and change after being outside to remove allergens that tend to stick to hair and clothes. Monitor pollen levels for your area through the National Allergy Bureau.
•Start taking your medication 10-14 days before symptoms appear. Nasal steroids, antihistamines, decongestants and eye drops are available over-the-counter and by prescription.
•Schedule a doctor’s appointment if medications and sprays aren’t working. Allergy shots that reduce your sensitivity are another option.
•Use a Neti Pot regularly to clean the sinuses and clear the head of congestion. A Neti Pot is a small ceramic pot used to pour warm saline solution through the sinus passages.
• Have air ducts cleaned before turning on the furnace for the first time and use a HEPA filter in your heating system to filter out molds, pollens and other allergens.
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