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Women's Guide to Conquering Allergies

If you’re a woman dealing with allergies, find out how to conquer your symptoms and feel better.

Allergies: Time to Take Action

Sometimes people think they have a cold that just doesn't go away, May says. Allergies can mimic cold symptoms – and the chronic congestion or drainage you attribute to an illness can actually be signs of allergies.

The most common symptom of seasonal allergies is nasal congestion, or a stuffy nose, Bassett says. The difference is that colds typically come on suddenly, last 5 to 7 days and don't respond to most allergy medications.

The first step to treating allergies, Bassett says, is to confirm your diagnosis. Antihistamines and decongestants are the most common types of treatments used to alleviate allergy symptoms. Don't wait until symptoms kick in before taking your allergy medications. As the weather gets warmer, pollens and molds are released into the air. Check your local pollen forecasts and mark your calendar early in the year.  Start early and prepare by taking allergy medications just before the allergy season starts.

"If you wait to start the medications, you're already losing a lot of sleep," May says.

How Allergies Impact Your Life

Depending on where you live in the country, you might discover dust mite and mold allergies get worse in the spring and the fall — mimicking the peak cycles of seasonal allergies. That's why correctly identifying your allergy triggers early is important.

Some people who think they have seasonal allergies are very surprised to find they have a year-round allergy to dust mites or mold, May says. More than two-thirds of people actually have allergy symptoms year-round, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

"Dust mites like humidity so anytime it's rainy and damp, their populations increase," May says. "It coincides with growing season and aggravates the whole problem because people are not targeting the right allergen."

Allergies can also trigger asthma attacks. Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma. Women are more prone to asthma than men, and are also more likely to require urgent care as a result. Common signs of asthma include wheezing, nighttime cough, or trouble breathing after exercise.

"When you have nasal allergies, your risk for asthma is about 40%, much higher than the general population," May says. "A lot of people with nasal allergies have ignored their respiratory symptoms thinking it's all part of their allergies. So they are not getting the right treatment."

"The good news is, if you can identify what those people are allergic to, and treat it appropriately, in many cases, the other problems like asthma and sinus problems, go away or improve greatly — and they can get back to having a normal life," she says.

Quick Allergy Tips

Clifford Bassett, MD, allergist/immunologist in New York City, shares his top advice for breathing easier this allergy season:

  • Check the pollen forecast. Stay indoors during midday when pollen counts are usually highest.
  • Wear big sunglasses on a windy day to protect your eyes.
  • Keep your windows closed and set your air conditioner on "re-circulate" to keep pollen out. Clean air filters frequently.
  • Shower at night to rinse pollen from your body before you climb into bed.

 

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