Allergies: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention Tips

May 01, 2019

More than 50 million Americans suffer with allergies each year. There is a good chance that you or someone you care about is constantly coughing, sneezing, or taking something for red, itchy eyes. But have you ever considered what allergies actually are, what causes them, and how to deal with them? 

As part of our commitment to making sure you have the information you need to make important health decisions for your family, we put together this helpful allergy overview so you can identify and seek treatment for them.

 

What Are Allergies?

Woman sneezing with a tissue

Some substances we live with every day like pollen, dust, or peanuts may not bother most people, but your immune system might mistake them for something harmful and go into overdrive, producing antibodies to fight that allergen. Common allergens include mold spores, pet dander, insect stings, foods, certain types of medicine, and more.

 

What Are Allergy Symptoms?

Mom cleaning the nose of her child at a flower camp

Common allergic reaction symptoms include difficulty breathing, changes in blood pressure, stuffy nose, or digestive issues.            

Common food allergy symptoms include:

  • Tingling in the mouth
  • Swelling of the lips, face or tongue
  • Hives

Common drug allergy symptoms include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Rashes or hives
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling of the face

Insect bite/sting symptoms include:

  • Swelling at the site
  • Itching or hives
  • Cough, wheezing, shortness of breath

The most serious allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening reaction that can—in the most extreme allergic cases—result from insect stings, severe food allergies, or drug allergies. Anaphylaxis symptoms include loss of consciousness, sudden drop in blood pressure, extreme shortness of breath, lightheadedness, rapid or weak pulse, nausea, and vomiting.

 

Treating Allergies

Pharmacist and a client looking at a celphone

While there is no cure for allergies, most people can treat and manage their allergy symptoms using over-the-counter or prescription medications including lotions to ease dry, itchy skin. You may also try to avoid any triggers that can cause an allergic reaction, though this may not be effective if you don’t know which allergens are impacting you. If medications don’t work for you or avoidance isn’t possible, talk to your doctor to find out about allergy shots and testing.

 

Tips for Preventing Allergic Reactions

Flowers and a branch mocking human lungs

In addition to medications and avoidance, there are other measures you can take to help manage your allergies.

  • For children, don’t allow stuffed animals in the bed—they trap dust and other allergens.
  • Try to avoid carpet and rugs at home—they hold onto allergens; if you have carpet, vacuum as often as possible.
  • Clean your air conditioning filters regularly—your filter traps many of the allergy-causing fibers, pollens, dust, and more that can lead to allergic reactions.
  • Keep an allergy diary—record what causes or increases your symptoms; track the foods you eat and activities you do to look for triggers; also record what seems to help and share that information with your doctor.
  • Consider wearing a medical alert device—a bracelet or necklace that lets others known about your allergies may prove to be a lifesaver.
  • Avoid foods that increase inflammation—for some people, allergies can stimulate more inflammation in the body, leading to a cascade of effects, making conditions such as psoriasis, arthritis, and acne worse. Cut back on food and drink that causes inflammation, such as sugary soft drinks, chips, processed foods, and candy.

 

Keep Living Your Normal Life

Friends laughing

Don’t let allergies ruin your activities at home, work, or school—do what you can to avoid your triggers, keep your medicines with you at all times, and talk to your doctor regularly about what works and what doesn’t work to treat your symptoms.

If you don’t already have a doctor, use our tool to help you find one today.

 

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The Simple Steps to Managing Your Winter Allergies

January 04, 2019

Winter doesn’t just mean cloudy days, warm sweaters, and New Year’s resolutions, it also means another wave of allergies. Just like in the summer, many people experience symptoms like runny noses or itchy eyes during the coldest months, for a variety of reasons. Luckily, AltaMed has your back. Here’s everything you need to know about managing your allergies in the winter. 


Cold Vs. Allergies


cold meds
 It’s a feeling that’s all too familiar. You wake up one dark, winter morning with a runny nose and body aches. Getting a cold during the winter is very common, and many people with allergies may misdiagnose themselves as a result. Correctly identifying your symptoms is the first step to feeling better. Here are the key differences between winter allergies and the common cold:
 

Winter Allergies      

  • Itchy eyes and/or sore throat
  • Snot is often clear in color
  • Symptoms last several weeks or indefinitely 

                                          
Common Cold

  • Aches and chill
  • Snot is often cloudy and discolored
  • Symptoms last about a week

If your symptoms those of winter allergies, the next step is finding the cause.


Causes


dog
 People have allergic reactions to lots of different things. During the winter, cooler weather creates the ideal conditions to spread and exasperate the following common irritants:
 

Pet Dander
Your furry friend may be a perfect to snuggle when the temperature drops, but keeping 
pets such as cats or dogs inside during the winter can lead to more pet dander in the air. When dander, (dead skin flakes), is breathed in, it can trigger allergies. 
 

Mold
As the temperature drops, dying leaves become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Exposure to clothing and shoes allows theses irritants a free ride inside your home, where they can live and spread further. People with allergies may then experience itchiness, sneezing, and runny noses. 
 

Dry Air
You may just be trying to keep warm, but turning on the heat in the winter can dry out the air in your home. As a result, your sinuses can become dehydrated, leading to inflammation. Unfortunately, this makes it easier for your allergies to act up. 
 

Solutions


people on beach

AltaMed knows you’d rather be enjoying the winter season than blowing your nose. Luckily, there are steps you can take to minimize and manage your winter allergies. Try these helpful tips:

  • Install a humidifier to balance the dry air caused by heating your home. Remember though, you don’t want to over-humidify either, as this can cause mold. Both doctors and construction professionals recommend a target of 50 percent humidity.
  • Stay hydrated. Along with a humidifier, drinking water regularly will help your body the fight irritants.
  •  Vacuum frequently to remove dander and other dirt particles from your floors, carpets, and furniture.
  • Wash your sheets weekly using warm water, as high heat can help kill allergens. For extra protection, try adding hypoallergenic cases for pillows and mattresses to trap dust mites.
  • Give your pet a bath once per week, and be sure to keep them out of your bedroom if you suffer from allergies.
  • Over-the-counter medications can help relieve most allergy symptoms, from runny noses to itchy eyes. These medications will be most effective if you start taking them early. If you suffer from allergies every winter, try starting on medicine shortly before your symptoms usually appear.


Want more tips or have questions you’d like answered? Stop by an AltaMed Care location today! You can find your nearest location by clicking here: https://www.altamed.org/find

 

10 Easy Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

February 04, 2019

Trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. Thirty-five percent of American adults report getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep a night. A lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, and other serious health problems. Between the demands of a full-time job, raising a family, enjoying social activities, or pursuing hobbies, it’s important to give your body the rest it needs. 

At AltaMed, we know that nothing’s more frustrating than a night of tossing a turning, so we’ve created a list of 10 easy tips to help get a better, longer rest. Read on and sleep tight!


1.    Put the Phone Down


AltaMed person in bed at night on their smartphone
 
It may be tempting to check your phone one more time before going to sleep, but the blue light that our devices emit will trick your body into staying awake. Because this light is similar to the natural daylight we experience while being awake, our bodies stop producing sleeping hormones when we scroll through our phones late at night. Doctors recommend putting your gadgets away at least a half hour before bedtime. 


2.    Wash Your Sheets


AltaMed woman taking fresh sheets out of dryer and smelling them
 
    
Washing your sheets once per week has been proven to increase sleep quality, according the National Sleep Foundation. Over time, our beds collect dead skin, sweat, and other irritants, which can trigger our senses and keep us awake. Be sure to clean other bedding frequently as well. 


3.    Say No to Late Night Snacks


AltaMed two women on the couch eating popcorn watching TV

Eating shortly before going to bed will keep you up and may result in worse sleep quality. It’s best to stop eating at least two hours before you plan to go to hit the hay. If you are hungry, limit portion size and avoid snacks with added sugar. 


4.    Check the Thermostat


AltaMed man adjusting the thermostat

Ever notice that it can be more difficult to sleep during hot, summer months? This is because temperature has a profound impact in our ability to fall asleep, even more so than loud or distracting noises. Doctors recommend keeping your room at a comfortable 70 or so degrees for optimal sleeping conditions. 


5.    Stick to a Schedule


AltaMed woman laying in bed with clock on night stand

Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm, meaning we tend to wake up around sunrise and get tired after sunset. Studies have shown that people who do not follow consistent bedtimes report poorer sleep quality. Creating and following a set 7 or 8 hour sleep pattern will help you fall asleep faster. 


6.    Relax Your Mind


Altamed woman having breakfast

It can be tougher to fall asleep when our bodies experience stress. Rather than lay awake and worrying, try writing down a “to do” list of everything you need to accomplish the next day. Organizing your thoughts will help your mind and body relax. 


7.    Try Exercising - Just Not at Night


AltaMed couple running outdoors

Exercise is one of the best ways to prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. This is because physical activity can tire the body out, leading to an increase of hormones such as melatonin that helps cause sleepiness. One study showed that older adults who exercised regularly fell asleep 55% faster and slept for about 40 minutes longer. However, exercising too close to bedtime can keep your brain stimulated and overly-alert, so aim for morning or midday activity. 


8.    Cut Back on Caffeine


AltaMed cup of coffee

If you drink coffee every morning for a boost of energy, be sure to limit yourself to one or two cups. Caffeine stimulates the body’s nervous system for up to 12 hours, meaning a 3:00pm coffee break can lead to a restless night. If you need a boost of energy in the afternoon, try a healthy snack such as nuts or fruit instead. 


9.    Stay Out of Bed


AltaMed dad and daughter reading together

That’s right. Sleep experts actually recommend staying out of bed unless the purpose is to go to sleep or have sex. If you spend hours laying down and watching TV, using your phone, or reading, the brain begins to associate the bed with being awake, rather than getting rest. This can make it harder to fall asleep. 


10.    Breathe


AltaMed woman meditating

Even in the ideal sleep setting, it can still take time to settle our brains and fall asleep. Try this exercise, created by the Arizona Center for Integrated Medicine, to help your body relax:

  • Close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose for 4 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. 

    Continue to do this until you fall asleep. 


Sleep On It


AltaMed woman sleeping in cozy bed

By following these suggestions, you’ll be on the path to a better night’s sleep! Remember, sleep deprivation can sometimes be a symptom of more serious medical conditions. If you or a loved one experiences continued insomnia without relief, talk to a doctor. Visit AltaMed.org to find a location, make an appointment, and learn more.