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Quiz: Do You Know the Facts on Allergies?

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What causes animal allergies?

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What causes animal allergies?

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It’s not Fluffy’s fur that’s making you sneeze -- and it’s not his dander (sloughed-off skin cells), either. Pet allergies are a reaction to certain harmless proteins that an animal secretes, which can be on the fur or dander, or in urine and saliva as well.

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True or false? If you’re allergic to animals, you’ll be fine with a hypoallergenic dog.

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True or false? If you’re allergic to animals, you’ll be fine with a hypoallergenic dog.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

Contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, and since allergies are a reaction to proteins in dander, feces, and urine -- not fur itself -- even short-haired pets can pose a problem. Feathers can also leave you sneezing, so a totally hairless pet, like a fish or turtle, is safest. But check with your allergist -- you might be allergic to cats, but not dogs, for example.

Can you have hay fever in the winter?

Can you have hay fever in the winter?

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Hay fever, a form of allergic rhinitis most often caused by pollen, usually pops up in the late summer and early fall. But experts say that warmer winters these days mean that pollen season, especially for the most allergenic type, ragweed, is lasting weeks longer than before. In some areas, mountain cedar’s pollen aggravates allergies from mid-December into February. Mold spores, which can grow in freezing temperatures, can also cause winter allergies.

If you have seasonal allergies, you might also be allergic to:

If you have seasonal allergies, you might also be allergic to:

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Some people who have seasonal allergies also get hives or itchiness in their mouths when they eat some raw fruits and vegetables. Certain proteins in these foods are very similar to the ones found in pollen. Cooking usually changes these proteins enough that they no longer cause an allergic reaction -- so you might get hives from biting into a Granny Smith, but not from apple pie.

Anaphylaxis is:

Anaphylaxis is:

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Although wheezing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose are all unpleasant, anaphylaxis can be deadly. It’s a severe, whole-body allergic reaction that develops rapidly after you’re exposed to the allergic trigger, which can be food, an insect sting, or even latex.

 

A swollen throat and trouble swallowing and breathing, a sudden drop in blood pressure, dizziness, and loss of consciousness are hallmarks of an anaphylactic reaction. If you have any of these symptoms and/or facial swelling, seek immediate medical care -- call 911.

Allergic reactions usually get milder the more often you’re exposed to an allergen.

Allergic reactions usually get milder the more often you’re exposed to an allergen.

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Although some people do “outgrow” allergies, once you’ve had an allergic reaction to something, there’s no way to predict how severe your next reaction will be. Some allergies, particularly insect sting allergies, may get worse with repeated reactions.

If you have allergies, your child will have them, too. 

If you have allergies, your child will have them, too. 

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It’s true that allergies are often hereditary, which means that kids with allergic parents are more likely to be allergic themselves. But it’s entirely possible for a child to develop allergies even though neither parent has ever had an allergic reaction to anything.

The best way to keep my child from developing allergies is to:

The best way to keep my child from developing allergies is to:

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More and more, research is showing that when kids are exposed to a wide variety of bacteria while they’re young, they’re less likely to develop allergies later in life. This means that getting dirty is A-OK for allergy prevention.

Shots for seasonal allergies take years to work.

Shots for seasonal allergies take years to work.

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These days, immunotherapy, or “allergy shots,” can get you ready for allergy season within a few months. If you begin getting shots in January, there’s a good chance that you’ll have a strong immune response built up by the time the daffodils pop up in April. 

But keep in mind not everyone responds at the same rate. For some people it can take as much as a year for the shots to make a difference. If they still haven't worked at that point, the allergist will likely suggest other approaches.

What causes most seasonal allergies?

What causes most seasonal allergies?

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Spring-pollinating plants may give you a head full of misery in April, but ragweed, released in late summer and early fall, is the 800-pound gorilla of allergy-causing pollens. A single ragweed plant can produce up to 1 billion pollen grains, each of which can travel more than 100 miles. To get ahead of ragweed season, start your allergy medications a couple of weeks before it’s predicted to begin in your area.

The tiny creatures lurking in your carpet and drapes that can provoke an allergic reaction are called:

The tiny creatures lurking in your carpet and drapes that can provoke an allergic reaction are called:

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Dust mites are too small to be seen without a microscope, but they can cause giant problems for people with allergies or asthma. It’s actually a protein in their waste that you may be allergic to (yep, dust mite poop). The number one step to reduce dust mites is to cover all mattresses and pillows with zippered, dust-proof covers.

If you’re allergic to mold, the best tool for keeping your home mold-free is:

If you’re allergic to mold, the best tool for keeping your home mold-free is:

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A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter traps mold spores before they get to you. These work much better than freestanding air cleaners. If you use humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and window-unit air conditioners, you should also be sure to keep the fluid reservoirs cleaned regularly.

You can reduce your exposure to seasonal allergens by:

You can reduce your exposure to seasonal allergens by:

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During the pollen season -- February or March through October, depending on where you live -- it’s a good idea to stay indoors when the pollen count is high. You can check pollen levels on the National Allergy Bureau’s web site.

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