In many ways, my asthma and allergies are inextricably linked. One kicks off the other and often leaves me in a vicious cycle of sneezing and wheezing. I have a type of asthma that is sparked by allergies, and unfortunately for me, it’s made two seasons that most people look forward to very challenging for me. When some are delighting over spring flowers or preparing for fall festivals, I’m often reaching for allergy medication or doing Olympic-level vacuuming.
Here are seven ways I’ve tried to keep these two at bay:
1. Don’t ignore allergy season. I know that my seasonal allergies can kick off a mild or even more severe asthma attack if I’m not careful. I used to be casual around allergy season. I’d pop a Benadryl here and there and just make do. Often, I’d find myself in the doctor’s office in no time with a sinus infection, severe allergies, an asthma flare, or all three. Every year like clockwork (even after moving West), I can expect my allergies to kick up mid-March through early June and then again in early September through early November. For years, I was surprised each time. I was in denial. Then one day I took a hard look in the mirror and said, “Hey you! You’ve got allergies. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. What are you going to do about it?” No longer am I shocked when spring rolls around. I’m prepared and ready.
2. Don’t smell the flowers. I absolutely adore flowers. I can talk shop with florists, I arrange my own bouquets, and I know the difference between a peony (my favorite) and a petunia. That said, I’ve had to be careful about when, how, and where I deal with flowers. If I’m doing some outdoor gardening, I’ll work in the early mornings or evenings when the pollen is not as strong. I enjoy fresh flowers in my home, but I don’t smell them. I’ll buy candles that smell like flowers rather than taking a whiff of a bloom here and there. I’ve learned my lesson.
3. Keep those floors spotless. I’m a bit of a neat freak anyway, but I’ve found it helpful to actually take it up a notch. I’ve invested in robotic vacuum cleaners and other gadgets to make sure my house stays as dust and allergen free as possible. I’ve also noticed a difference in having carpet and hardwood floors. Most experts will say hardwood is best. If you have carpet, vacuum at least once a week – ideally more.
4. Ramp up the vitamins. I’ve noticed a connection to my immune system being down and my allergies being up. For years, I thought vitamins were just for cold and flu season. As I got older, I learned there were good vitamins that were good year-round. As I got even older, I learned that vitamins are helpful during allergy season also. The general alphabets seem to help me: C, D, and E.
5.Stay inside. It seems like punishment to think of it after over a year of pandemic living. However, during peak allergy season I do just that. I’ll arrange my errands and outdoor activities to be during certain parts of the day. If I have to be outside midday, I’ve found wearing a mask helps. Now it’s not so uncommon, of course. As much as I’d like to be outdoors all the time, I have to adjust. It’s all part of my allergy acceptance program. To stay feeling my best, I’ll nix the kickball game for a museum or good movie.
6. Keep the air clean, out, and dry. When you have allergies and asthma, you’re strangely aware of the air around you. I can tell if I’m going to have a good time once I walk into the room by the air. In our home, we have several air purifiers to keep the air as free as possible of dust and allergens. I’ve read a lot about the connection between humid air and mold spores that can lead to allergies and asthma symptoms. I run my fans after a shower. I keep my home relatively cool (which helps keep humidity down). Finally, as much as I love the breeze of fresh air, I try not to open the windows (at home or in my car) during allergy season.
7. Take your medicine. I am not a fan of taking daily medication if I don’t need it. However, I have seen a benefit in taking daily allergy medicine during peak season. My doctor explained that many allergy medications work best when they can be in your system to help block allergens, unlike other medicine that you can take on a case-by-case basis. Once I accepted this and began taking a daily sinus medication, I saw an improvement in my symptoms.
I don’t know if my allergies will ever go away. I don’t know if my asthma will go away. I am hopeful. Until that day, I’ve learned some strategies to help me continue smiling in the sunshine.
Photo Credit: Grace Cary / Moment via Getty Images
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