Arm Yourself for the Fight Against Allergies

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Spring is here! Beautiful weather, blooming flowers, and lush trees can mean only one thing – we are right in the heart of allergy season. More than 24 million Americans suffer from allergies and everyone seems to have different thoughts on the subject. Consequently, there are quite a few allergy myths out there. To help you prepare for the fight against itchy eyes and runny noses, we’ve put together a list of six common misconceptions about allergies.

1. “You can’t inherit allergies.”

While some days do have higher pollen counts than others, environment is only part of the allergy equation. Contrary to what many people believe, genes contribute significantly to an individual’s allergy symptoms. New studies suggest that there are 10 genetic markers that can influence whether or not you have allergies. Further research states that these specific markers factor into about a quarter of all diagnosed allergies. One day, genetic research might provide new treatments and answers for many allergies. Until then, you’ll just have to blame your ancestors when your symptoms pop up!

2. “Allergies are worse in some cities and states.”

Another widely believed allergy falsehood is that certain geographical regions or landscapes, such as the beach or desert, are better for allergy-sufferers. However, allergens are everywhere in the form of grass, tree, and ragweed pollen. Different regions have varying concentrations of these pollens, but all regions can spur allergy symptoms. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology busted this myth. Dr. Zeldin, the study’s co-author, stated that “the percentage of people who have allergies doesn’t change from one region to another; what differs is what people are allergic to.”

3. “Medicine is the only way to decrease symptoms.”

There is no doubt that medicines are effective in reducing allergy symptoms. However, there is a surprising way that you might be able to reduce your affliction without going on medication. A definite connection exists between the brain and the body and allergies are no exception. Higher perceived stress levels can actually result in an increase in the severity of your allergy symptoms. This occurs because the more stress you experience, the harder it is for your body to respond and mediate your allergies. Therefore, by focusing on reducing your stress levels, you can alleviate the severity of your symptoms.

4. “Pet hair causes allergies.”

It is estimated that around 10-15% of people in the United States suffer from pet allergies. A common misconception is that the allergy stems from the amount of hair on the animal. However, the root of the allergic reaction is actually pet dander – a protein produced on the pet’s skin. Dogs with short hair or hair that doesn’t shed much (like poodles) cause less of reaction than longer-haired dogs or cats because there is less circulation of dander. Still, there are no completely non-allergenic breeds. There is hope, however! If you are exposed to dogs and cats at an early age and grow up with frequent contact, studies suggest that you are less prone to having these allergies.

5. “You will outgrow your allergies.”

There is a slight grain of truth to this statement. Children are more likely to outgrow food allergies as their digestive systems develop. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish, however, are likely to remain life-long afflictions. Also, when it comes to hay-fever and other environmental allergies, there is an extremely low probability that allergy symptoms will disappear with age. Furthermore, avoiding childhood allergies does not mean you won’t develop them later in life. Changes in environment can expose you to new allergens and give you new allergies you couldn’t have prepared for in your younger years.

6. “Allergy shots don’t work.”

Immunotherapy doesn’t cure allergies, but it has been proven very effective in reducing symptoms and lowering your body’s number of allergic reactions. In fact, allergy shots are successful in eliminating hay fever symptoms about 85% of the time. Shots work by exposing your body to allergens, helping you to build up a natural tolerance. Allergy shots are administered fairly consistently at first, but taper off as time goes on until the program is complete. If the treatment works, you should see positive results in about a year.

To sum things up, you probably will never be able to completely rid yourself of every allergy you may have. The good news is that you do have options. There are plenty of weapons in the fight against allergies, and knowing the truth about your ailments is always a good thing. Study up and prepare yourself for allergy season in any way that you can!

Sources: HowStuffWorks, AARP Health, WebMD

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