If you find yourself developing a killer headache when riding an elevator with someone who was a bit generous dabbing on the perfume, you have company. More than 2 million Americans have fragrance allergies or sensitivities -- and the number is on the rise.
Although that person's perfume may have been all too obvious a culprit, there are many hidden sources of fragrances, says Clifford W. Bassett, MD, medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York. Bassett helped WebMD sniff out the truth...
The problem: Flowers aren't likely to be the worst allergens here, although it may be the first thing you think of. Pollen from brightly colored flowers is carried by insects from plant to plant -- not by the wind. So there's less airborne pollen from these flowers.
Instead, pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds are more likely to trigger your allergies.
Prevent by: Check pollen counts before going; if it's really high, consider rescheduling. Go at a time of day that's more allergy-friendly. Plants typically release pollen shortly after sunrise, but pollen travels best on midday breezes. So, airborne pollen is often highest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Time your visit for late afternoon.
If you typically take an antihistamine, take it before heading out. If you are on prescription allergy medicines, take them as directed but before you go. Take along the meds, including an over-the-counter saline nasal spray.
Once there: Keep the medicine handy. You can use the saline nose spray several times a day.
Challenge #2: Fresh-Air Weddings
The problem: These events usually coincide with high pollen season. That's typically spring and summer although some outdoor wedding dates could extend into the fall.
Prevent by: Use your medicine -- antihistamines, nasal sprays if you have them – before you’re outside. Take along an over-the-counter saline nose spray.
If you're the bride or groom, check the typical pollen count for your area before setting the date. You can also minimize exposure to allergens by having the ceremony outside and moving the reception indoors, for instance.
Go ahead and splurge on the bouquets. Flowers rarely cause the problem. It's more the pollens from trees and grasses.
Once there: If symptoms flare despite the preventive action, slip away and use the nasal saline spray. Shake pollen off your clothes if possible.