6 Ways to Reduce Outdoor Allergies

Posted by: | Posted on: April 14, 2016

2016-04-02 - Brazos Bend Family Camp (108) (1024x768)Do you look at this photo with longing? Do you wonder what it must be like to enjoy fresh air and beautiful spring flowers without allergies? Anyone who has allergies knows the misery of itchy eyes, a runny nose, itchy throat, coughing and hacking, and even allergy related asthma. In some cases, systemic allergic chain reactions triggered by pollens, etc, can cause joint pain, rashes, stomach distress, cognitive challenges, and the dreaded anaphylaxis. I’m sure many of you have even noticed that you are more susceptible to getting sick after a severe allergy attack, or once you have reacted to one allergy, you become more sensitive to others.

Alex taking a siesta during a NEO picnicYour allergy symptoms are ultimately caused by an overactive immune system. One of the primary chemicals the body releases during an allergic response is histamine. Histamine has several important functions in the body, but we think of it as our enemy during an allergy attack and immediately reach for whatever “antihistamines” we can find in the medicine cabinet. We then settle in for an uncomfortable waiting period…either for our allergies to subside or for the “antihistamine” to knock us out so we can sleep off our misery. Since histamine is vital in promoting wakefulness, “antihistamines” cause noticeable drowsiness.

You may have noticed that you can’t seem to think clearly when having an allergy attack. There is a good reason for this. Histamine is a neurotransmitter, and when your brain is flooded with the chemical, chaos ensues. Out of balance histamine levels have now been linked to neurologic diseases, sleep disorders, clinical depression, decreased cognitive function, addictive behaviors, obesity, and much more. Scary, right?

Family enjoying a bike ride at Brazos Bend State ParkSo, is there a way to avoid some of the misery and help keep histamine responses under control? Having suffered from severe systemic allergies since childhood, I can tell you “YES!” with confidence. With just a little planning and some easy tricks, you can enjoy a much better relationship with the outdoors and decrease the number and severity of your allergic reactions. The following are a few tips I have discovered over the years, and I am confident they will help you!

1. See an allergy/asthma specialist. The right doctor will help you find out what your true allergy triggers are and develop a regimen to get them under control. This may include inhalers, steroids, shots, or holistic options. It may take some time to find out what combination of medications works best for you and what times of year you really need to take them, so be patient and stick with it. Even a year of experimenting is well worth a lifetime of diminished (or eliminated) allergy attacks. Through testing, your doctor may decide you don’t need medicine at all. You may just need to avoid a few key triggers.

2. Keep an allergy journal. This can be as simple as log entries you make on your cell phone’s note taking app. This journal will be invaluable to you and your doctor and will help you narrow down what your worst triggers and reactions are. Make a note of the situation surrounding your reaction. Had you been sick leading up to the attack? Did it start with an itchy throat? Were you dogsitting at the time? What did you eat that day? etc. You will start to notice trends you never would have thought to consider or bring up with your doctor.

Father and daughter spending quality time in the great outdoors.3. Plan ahead. If you know you will be subjecting yourself to allergy triggers, start taking your medicines at least a few days before hand. One of the biggest mistakes allergy sufferers make is thinking they will just take some Benadryl once they start showing symptoms. The problem is that once your body starts to respond to allergens and floods your tissues with histamine and other chemicals, it is too late. At that point, it is those chemicals that are actually causing your discomfort such as sneezing, itching, wheezing, sniffling, etc. An antihistamine will not counteract the chemicals that are already in your body. It will just help prevent more chemicals from be produced. Unfortunately, you will have to suffer until the histamine and other inflammatory agents already saturating your tissues have dissipated or have been neutralized by other chemicals in your body.

4. Rinse your face and hands often. Pollens and other allergy triggers collect on your face and hands. Simply rinsing with water will help keep allergens from collecting and being breathed in, swallowed, or rubbed into your eyes.

5. Keep your hair covered or restrained. If your hair is exposed and able to blow in the wind, it acts as an enormous allergen collecting net. It will not only collect allergens, but as it blows in the wind it will deposit them all over your face and even in your nose, mouth, and eyes. Keeping hair tied back, braided, or covered with a bandana or hat will significantly reduce your exposure.

6. Eliminate scented toiletries.
If you know you are going to be exposed to your allergy triggers, forego your regular scented lotions, perfumes, colognes, soaps, body sprays, etc. While they may not affect you under normal circumstances, they may compound an allergic response when your body’s immune system is already in overdrive.

With a little practice and some changes to your habits, you can make a significant impact in how allergies affect you. Your quality of life will improve drastically, and you will enjoy the outdoors with renewed confidence and vigor without the fear of being knocked out by allergens. Get started now! Then, come out and play!
What a beautiful day for fishing!

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