Typical allergy triggers like pollen from trees and grasses aren’t the only items that might have you reaching for the tissues… some unexpected things you probably have in your home right now might also cause your allergy symptoms to flare up. There are eleven lesser known triggers to watch for…
1. Candles - the odors from scented candles can inflame your nasal cavities, according to James Wedner, M.D., chief of allergy and immunology at the Washington University School of Medicine.
Those with allergies are likely to have a runny nose or watery eyes when near a burning candle. Candles with scents like pumpkin are usually best tolerated.
If you’re having trouble with a candle, try to move away, extinguish it outside or get some fresh air yourself.
2. Perfume - has hundreds of chemicals, mostly untested on people, and when mixed with the essential oils in the perfume and sprayed into the air they can cause a person to sneeze, feel congestion or get a headache.
It’s hard, but ask people around you to go easy on the spray scents and suggest body creams and lotions as their scents aren’t quite as strong.
You might also keep a small fan in your office or car to keep the air moving.
3. Soaps and detergents - you might be surprised to learn that most of the itching you think is caused by a cleaning agent, is actually the fault of a perfume additive.
Look for “no additives”, “unscented” or “phthalate-free” on the label.
When drying clothes, use a sheet of aluminum foil in the dryer (instead of smelly static cling sheets) to get rid of static without the strong odor. You can also try a scent-free, no-additive dryer sheet.
4. Stuffed animals - can get chock full of dust mites, a problem for an estimated 15% of people.
You can try washing (in water 140 degrees or hotter), drying and then repeating (usually monthly) for favorite toys.
Toys that can’t be washed can be put in a plastic bag in the freezer for a few hours; this will also kill the mites. Store toys on a shelf, rather than on the bed.
5. Carpeting - it’s warm on your feet and feels wonderful, but even if you vacuum all the time, you still have dust mites.
Your best bet if you have a persistent allergy is to take out the carpeting and replace it with wood or tile and use area rugs instead.
Wash the rugs monthly, and keep the humidity of the space below 50%. Dust mites thrive in humid environments.
6. Spices - add zing to your food but as they come from pungent plants they also can bring on everything from sniffling to swelling of the nasal passages, itching and burning in the lips.
Avoid the troublesome ones including coriander, poppy seeds, pepper, dill, paprika, cumin and saffron — often found in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes.
If you’re not sure which spices are the trouble, try writing down what you eat each time you have an allergy attack and see if you can find a common theme.
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Eleven Unexpected Allergy Triggers continued…
7. Christmas Trees - the staple of the holidays is a place where mold grows very fast especially if the tree is put into a bucket of water or damp soil… a moist, dark place mold just loves.
Many people are either allergic to or irritated by the mold spores. A fake tree is the answer for many.
If you must have a real tree, avoid one that’s been cut weeks in advance, as its probably already ripe with mold. Be stingy with water once the tree is at home and keep it up for as short a time as possible.
8. Wall paint - the solvents and synthetic resins often lead to itchy eyes and headaches, with oil based paints being particularly troublesome as they continue to release chemicals even after they dry.
Keep the windows open as you work, and try to have fresh air circulating in the space for up to four weeks after finishing the work. Paints with low levels of VOCs send fewer chemicals in the air, but this isn’t a guarantee you won’t still have trouble with them.
9. Alcohol - it’s not an allergy to alcohol (which is rare) but the grains and additives used to make the liquor. Wheat or sulfur dioxide preservative can also cause stuffy noses or rash.
New York allergist Wellington Tichenor, MD also mentions grains like corn, barley and rye as well as fruit flavorings that can be troublesome too.
You might try grain free liquors like potato vodka, rum or tequila and skip flavored liqueurs. Look for wine labeled “sulfite-free”.
10. Buttons on Blue Jeans - are often made from nickel which can be a trigger for rashes in up to 20% of women. These can be itchy, red and sometimes causes blisters and are often treated with topical creams.
To avoid these symptoms replace the buttons with plastic ones or coat the button with clear nail polish, a remedy found to work by a recent St. Louis University study.
11. Lemons and limes - limonene, the zesty compound in lime and other citrus fruits, leaves many with watery eyes and a burning feeling in the nose. You might even have irritation on your skin if you touch, eat or drink products with limonene.
Treat any rash with topical hydrocortisone creams and skip the garnish with your drink or salad. Watch for lime in salad dressings, marinades and desserts as well.
Many allergens can be avoided but you’ll need to keep your eyes open for ‘hidden’ triggers like the ones mentioned above.