Why we sneeze

By Kimberly Nelson

With all the information out there about allergies it’s not surprising that there are so many misconceptions about them.  So, in honor of allergy season we separate the facts from the fiction.

What are environmental allergies?

Environmental allergies happen when your body’s immune system overreacts to something in the environment.

The most common environmental allergens include:

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Animals/pets
  • Mold/Mildew
  • Smoke from cigarettes

South Texans cope with outdoor allergies throughout the year, unlike many places — beginning with the dreaded mountain cedar (actually a member of the juniper family) in the winter, oak and other trees in the spring, grasses in the summer and ragweed and pigweed in the fall.

Allergy symptoms can include sneezing, nasal congestion, watery eyes, cough or sore throat. Allergies can even cause more serious illnesses such as asthma which affects millions of Americans, including children.

Allergies: so what’s fact and what’s fiction?

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergies are the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the nation, affecting more than 50 million Americans each year.

Since many Americans struggle with allergies, people often follow misleading information on how to treat and diagnose their allergy symptoms. So what’s true and what’s false about allergies?

Eating local honey can ease allergy symptoms: FACT – There has been some research to back this claim, though it’s not necessarily a guaranteed treatment.

Studies show that honey could possibly ease allergy symptoms,” said Dr. Marisa Earley, pediatric otolaryngologist at University Health System and an assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio. “The studies are a little equivocal, but the theory is that local honey has local pollen and allergens which over time can cause desensitization.  There is no guarantee, and no one knows how long you’d have to do it for in order to see results.”

Children outgrow allergies: FICTION Children may outgrow seasonal allergies as they develop, but not always.

“Children may outgrow allergies,” Dr. Earley explained. “Adults may also develop new allergies. It is important to follow-up with your doctor and repeat allergy testing. Testing is required a few years after an allergy is diagnosed.”

Indoor Air Filters/Hepa filters reduce the amount of allergens in the home: FACT Air purifiers can help seasonal allergy sufferers by reducing the amount of irritating particles in the home.

“These are a must for allergy sufferers,” Dr. Earley said. “Some filtration systems utilize UV (ultraviolet light), while others have very complex filtration methods that capture particles in the air. The best systems are whole house systems within your HVAC. If this is too expensive, there are air purifiers that can be used in an individual room.”

Short-hair pets don’t trigger allergies: FICTION – Unfortunately, having a short-haired pet will not necessarily save you from allergies.

“Pets not only have their own dander that people may be allergic to, but their hair also traps and carries around pollen, dust mites, mold spores, etc., and anywhere they go, the allergens go,” Dr. Earley said. “For people that are allergic to their pets but not willing to part with them, which is how I would be, do NOT let pets into the bedroom.”

What can I do to ease my allergy symptoms?

“There are many options to treat allergies. This may involve pills or nasal sprays,” Dr. Earley said. “Immunotherapy is also helpful and is the only way to ‘cure an allergy.’ This includes either allergy shots or a newer treatment called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT).”

In addition to medications, there are some home remedies that may help reduce allergy symptoms including neti pots and saline sprays to help clear nasal passages.

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