One of the gold standards of allergy treatment care is allergy avoidance — or avoiding allergens that may trigger symptoms.
While allergy avoidance works, it may not always be the most convenient way to manage symptoms. Avoiding allergens may also mean avoiding some of the activities you love most in the spring, summer and fall.
Are there better means of preventing allergies? Find out as we dive deep into preventing and managing allergy symptoms.
Allergy avoidance is the act of avoiding certain allergens that cause symptoms.
Since many allergens only surface seasonally (tree pollen, ragweed, grasses, etc.), many people may simply be able to avoid contact with these allergens to prevent symptoms.
Avoidance habits may include staying indoors on days when pollen counts are high; keeping your home free of dust, dander, and other airborne allergens and steering clear of animals that trigger symptoms.
When allergens enter the body, the immune system attacks by releasing histamine. It’s histamine that causes inflammation, sneezing, coughing and other allergy symptoms.
If you don’t come into contact with allergens, your body won’t release histamines, and you won’t experience uncomfortable symptoms.
You probably have an idea of which allergens are the cause of uncomfortable symptoms.
If you suffer from allergy symptoms in the spring, you may have tree pollen allergies. If you start sneezing and coughing at the end of summer and early fall, you may be allergic to weed pollens (such as ragweed), fungus or mold.
If your nose gets itchy whenever you’re around cats, you may have an animal allergy.
Yet, the only way to know for certain which allergens cause symptoms is to get tested for allergies. The two main types of allergy tests are skin scratch tests and blood tests, which are available in a lab, or at-home via a Curex self-test kit.
Skin scratch tests insert a tiny amount of an allergen underneath the top layer of the dermis and can test for up to 50 different allergies. You must stop taking your allergy medication for up to one week before the test, which may be extremely uncomfortable.
A blood test is a simple blood draw, performed in a lab; results are usually available within a week. Curex also now offers a concierge testing service; make an appointment for a medical assistant to travel to your home or office for the blood draw instead of traveling to a lab.
Curex’s at-home allergy test can test for dozens of allergies from the comfort of your home. Simply order a test kit and follow the instructions to perform a finger prick and collect the blood drop sample.
Mail the sample to the lab and get your results within a few business days.
Once you know which allergies cause your symptoms, you’ll know which allergens to avoid.
Most allergies can be divided into indoor and outdoor allergies. Indoor allergies are environmental — meaning they may cause symptoms no matter what the season, and outdoor allergens are often seasonal (though they can also be environmental, as well).
If you suffer from outdoor allergies, you may want to avoid going outside when allergen counts are high.
Most weather apps and websites post daily pollen counts and air quality reports. Check these reports before going outdoors and avoid leaving home if counts are high (and you are able to stay indoors).
If you need to go outside, wear protective clothing and face gear (such as pants, long sleeves, hair coverings, glasses that cover your eyes and a face mask) to keep pollen from entering your eyes, nose and mouth and prevent it from getting stuck to your skin and hair.
Bathe pets regularly to remove any pollen from their fur and paws.
Your home can turn into a magnet for allergens if not cleaned properly. Humans and pets may track outdoor allergens, such as pollen, throughout the home, and some allergens originate from inside, too.
If you’re allergic to dust or dust mites, dust regularly (or better yet, ask someone who isn’t allergic to dust to clean if possible).
Keep your pets clean by brushing and bathing them at least once a week.
If you’re allergic to animals, you may want to get tested for specific animal allergies, as some people are allergic to some animals and not others.
If you have pets and discover you have pet allergies, you may want to ask a family member who isn’t allergic to groom your furry friends. You may also want to keep pets confined to certain areas of the home. At the very least, keep litter boxes in a separate room to avoid exposure to feces and urine.
Animal feces, urine, saliva and dander (dead skin cells) are usually the cause of animal allergies, so adopting short-haired pets may not be the solution to preventing animal allergies.
Pests, such as rats, mice, cockroaches and mites all shed dander, too.
Sometimes indoor allergens don’t cause symptoms until colder months when windows are closed and fans and air conditioners aren’t running as much. Air circulation can help to clear the air of high concentrations of allergens, so investing in appliances with HEPA air filters may also help to remove indoor allergens from the air.
If you need to go outside for any reason and outdoor allergen counts are high, you’ll want to remove your clothing immediately upon reentering.
Pollen can cling to your skin, hair and clothes, and you don’t want to track it through your clean home. Take a shower and wash your hair immediately upon entering your home if you can, or at least bathe before going to bed, as you don’t want to transfer pollen to your pillow at night.
Finally, if you can see or smell mold and fungus — especially in humid rooms, such as the kitchen, bathroom or cellar — you may want to contact a mold removal specialist.
Again, these allergens often don’t become an issue until colder months roll around, as air circulation from fans, air conditioners and open windows may have previously allowed such allergens to escape unnoticed.
Yes! The good news is that allergy avoidance has proven effective at managing allergy symptoms. While it may not be possible to avoid all allergens all of the time, allergy avoidance is one effective way to manage symptoms.
Unfortunately, allergy avoidance doesn’t come without a cost.
Avoiding allergens may also mean avoiding activities you love (like picnics, barbecues, outdoor concerts and cuddling with your furry friends). It may also not be possible to avoid all allergens all the time — especially if avoiding allergies means missing days of work or big moments in your life.
Luckily, there are ways to prevent allergies without avoiding them entirely.
Both allergy medication and allergy immunotherapy have proven effective at reducing allergy symptoms. While allergy medication only treats the symptoms of allergies, allergy immunotherapy addresses the root cause of allergies.
Allergy medications have been proven effective at preventing and treating the symptoms of both seasonal and environmental allergies. These medications are available over the counter and with a clinician’s prescription.
The main types of allergy medications include antihistamines, steroid nasal sprays and saline solutions. Your clinician may also recommend taking a decongestant or mucus thinning medication as well.
Oral antihistamines are available in tablet form. Antihistamine is also the active ingredient in nasal sprays and eye drops. All three are available over the counter and with a clinician’s prescription.
Nasal sprays are available by prescription and over the counter to treat nasal symptoms. Saline sprays and drops are available over the counter.
Allergy immunotherapy has been proven effective at reducing allergy symptoms and addressing the root cause of allergies.
Since allergic reactions are caused by the immune system overreacting to non-threatening substances (allergens), allergy immunotherapy works by training the body to stop seeing allergens as a threat.
Small doses of allergens are introduced to the body, allowing the immune system to stop seeing them as a threat. When this happens, the immune system may stop releasing histamines that cause uncomfortable allergy symptoms.
The most popular type of allergy immunotherapy in the U.S. is allergy shots.
Tiny amounts of allergens are injected into the body weekly during the buildup phase and monthly during the maintenance phase. Patients may need to be monitored for signs of anaphylaxis after each dose for up to 45 minutes.
Sublingual immunotherapy is popular in Europe and has been more widely used in France than allergy shots, though it is somewhat new to the U.S.
This type of immunotherapy is administered sublingually, usually under the tongue. Patients may self-administer sublingual allergy immunotherapy doses at home, usually without supervision as anaphylaxis is rarer than with allergy shots.