If you grew up prior to the 1980s, you may not have known many people who suffered from allergies or asthma, much less had food allergies. Now, thanks to increasing prevalence, greater awareness and improved diagnosis, everyone has friends or families who are concerned with allergy and asthma triggers. Nasal allergies affect about 50 million people in the United States, and the numbers are rising, affecting as many as 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children. Meanwhile asthma affects 26 million people, including 7 million children.

With so many people affected by these conditions, the doctors who are specially trained to treat them— board-certified allergists—want you to know there are ways to cope and improve how you react to the triggers that surround you and your loved ones.

1. Start treatment early

Spring time ushers in the arrival of grass pollens, the most common summer allergen.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may think it’s fine to start your allergy medications when your symptoms start. Think again. Depending on what you’re allergic to and where you live, you’re well advised to start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start to alleviate suffering. This holds true for any seasonal allergy. The spring allergy season, caused primarily by tree pollination, begins in late winter or early spring, depending on your location. The summer allergy season starts in late April or early May with the arrival of grass pollens—the most common summer allergen. There may be some overlap in tree and grass pollination, particularly if the winter is long and cold and tree pollination is delayed. Late summer brings ragweed, which usually arrives in August and extends well into October or until the first frost. Mold spores, can irritate those with allergies throughout the year.

2. Steer clear of triggers

Are the soles of your shoes attracting pollen?

Sometimes, simple measures work best, like avoiding the things that trigger your allergy and asthma symptoms. For example, many people are allergic to pollen. To help you avoid contact during days when the counts are high, be sure to keep windows closed during pollen season and stay inside during morning hours (5 a.m. to 10 a.m.) when pollen counts are highest.

Try to remember to take a shower, wash your hair and change clothing after working out or playing outdoors. Don’t wear shoes in the house—the soles can attract pollen, which can be left on carpeting and other surfaces. Use a tracking matt at your door to remove it from your shoes. If you are exercising outdoors, avoid running through the grass since it can stir pollen into the air. Wear a hat and sunglasses to keep pollen out of your hair and eyes.

3. Don’t go it alone

See an allergist to personalize your asthma and allergy action plan.

Did you know that roughly two-thirds of allergy sufferers won’t find relief from over-the-counter medications? If you are among them, seeing a board-certified allergist is your best way to get both allergies and asthma under control. Many people don’t realize that allergists are asthma experts and will help you develop a personalized asthma action plan. An allergist can also determine what you’re allergic to, and the best treatment for you—whether that’s allergy shots (immunotherapy), prescription tablets or avoidance techniques.

4. Not all reactions mean allergy

When diagnosing an allergy, it’s always best to get a second opinion.

People who’ve had an adverse reaction to a medication are often told they’re allergic. It’s important to be tested by an allergist to find out if you’re truly allergic to a medication—such as penicillin—or whether you’ve had an adverse reaction. A recent study showed that 94 percent of people, who thought they were allergic to penicillin, were in fact not allergic. They assumed they needed more costly and perhaps less effective medications, and were able to change their medications based on the results.

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