Climate change and crazy, new weather patterns worldwide that affect the environment are changing the way we think of “seasonal” allergies. A study conducted by the University of New Hampshire showed that spring is getting longer and coming earlier each year, due to mild winters and less frequent snow falls. So, the transition from winter to spring, known as the “vernal window” is opening sooner. This means seasonal allergies follow suit, coming earlier and lasting longer than ever before. Other research has shown that increasing levels of carbon dioxide and certain types of pollution make pollen more potent, and more likely to affect people with only mild allergies. If you want to avoid spending spring battling the annoying symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as sneezing, and itchy eyes and throat, limiting your time outdoors on high pollen days can help, says Clifford Basset, MD, founder and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York and author of The New Allergy Solution: Supercharge Resistance, Slash Medication, Stop Suffering. You can monitor pollen levels in your area on most weather channels and websites. “You should also watch out for windy days, wear sunglasses, a hat, and other protective gear, and be sure to take medication, such as an antihistamine or nasal steroid spray, before symptoms kick in,” he adds. Here are 11 more surprising ways you can stop seasonal allergies in their tracks.
If it seems like more people you know are dealing with food allergies, you’re not imagining it. Each year the number of adults and children with some type of food allergy or sensitivity skyrockets. Researchers believe that food allergies affect nearly 50 million people in the United States, which is about 30 percent of all adults and 40 percent of children. And in 2013, the CDC released a study that shows food allergies among children increased nearly 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. (Check out these facts about food allergies.) Scientists are still trying to figure out why food allergies are so prominent today, but one main theory is that the over-sanitization of daily life (a concept called the “hygiene hypothesis”) causes helpful gut bacteria to decrease. Another theory is that modern vaccines eradicate the kinds of diseases that would give our immune system something to fight against, so it takes up arms against more harmless stimuli. A simple skin and blood test by your doctor can determine whether you have a food allergy. Foods that tend to cause the most allergic reactions are soy, peanuts, milk, eggs, fish, and wheat, so be sure to note how you feel after eating one of them. Unfortunately the only way to prevent an adverse reaction is to avoid the food or trigger altogether. “You should also create an intervention plan, including how to notice and handle allergic symptoms,” advises Dr. Bassett. “And if your food allergies are severe, always be prepared with an epinephrine auto injector pen.”