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Using an Asthma Nebulizer
Using an Asthma Nebulizer

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Office Hours: Ask the Expert

Sneezing Your Way to Spring

By Naomi Mendelsohn

"It's not just spring cleaning, it's a matter of keeping a house clean on a chronic basis."

It's that time of year again. The trees are blooming, gardens are budding, and front lawns are glowing greener than ever. Behind this vision of loveliness, however, lurks dangerous, cough-inducing, eye-itching pollen. Asthma and allergy sufferers beware: 'tis the season for antihistamines.

But, don't even bother escaping to the indoors. Creepy crawly dust mites and other flourishing molds can trigger allergies in the comfort of the indoors as well. There are, however, some precautions that can ease this suffering. Ever heard the phrase spring cleaning? Maria Gutierrez, M.D., an adult allergy specialist at National Jewish Medical Research Center in Denver, cleans up the myths of spring fever and spring cleaning.

Cleanliness is next to healthfulness

SavvyHEALTH:What are the worst seasons for allergies?

Dr. Gutierrez: Spring, summer and fall are bad allergy seasons because that's when things bloom. Spring is tree season, summer is grass season and fall is weed season. In winter, not much is growing except in Texas and Florida.

SavvyHEALTH:What are the most common allergies that arise in spring and summer?

Dr. Gutierrez: Outdoors allergies. But it really depends on where you live. In general, in the spring and summer, the most common allergies are grass and tree allergies. And then, depending on what area you live in, molds can be a problem.

SavvyHEALTH: Are there certain locales that are safer for people with allergies and asthma?

Dr. Gutierrez: In general, as far as outdoor pollens it's the same. People with severe dust mite allergies are better off in drier climates, like Colorado or New Mexico. In more humid environments like Texas, the South and the East Coast, the dust mite concentration is higher. But somewhere dry like New Mexico or Colorado won't have dust mites because they can't survive unless the humidity is over about 60-70 percent.

SavvyHEALTH: Does air conditioning alleviate some of the problem for more humid climates?

Dr. Gutierrez: Air conditioning is a double-edged sword. It is good for people who live in humid environments, like Texas, because air conditioning can lower the humidity so much. But, unless you have some type of filter, this will also bring in pollen from outside. It really depends on if you have more of a pollen allergy or dust mite allergy.

SavvyHEALTH: What about spring cleaning? Is it a good idea for people with allergies and asthma?

Dr. Gutierrez: We don't usually recommend that people with allergies or asthma do their own cleaning. It could exacerbate the disease if you go around stirring up dust. Proper masks might be useful. But again, you are encouraging people to be around that stuff and that's not a good idea. Anyway, it's not just spring cleaning, it's a matter of keeping a house clean on a chronic basis.

SavvyHEALTH: Are there rooms in a house that might be more prone to housing certain triggers?

Dr. Gutierrez: Anywhere that you have increased moisture, like basements, bathroom and anywhere that has water damage is more likely to have molds because they have higher humidity.

SavvyHEALTH: Should people with severe allergies and asthma avoid the outdoors during spring and summer?

Dr. Gutierrez: It's always a good idea to avoid being outside. But there are a lot of medications out on the market for hayfever, rhinitis, allergies and asthma that let people lead normal lifestyle. If you have severe pollen allergies, you should be especially cautious on windy days, because those are the days when pollen is being blown around a lot more.

We like our patients to lead normal lifestyles. Common sense will tell you that on windy days more pollen will be stirring around in higher concentrations.

Naomi Mendelsohn is a content editor at savvyHEALTH.com.

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