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Are Americans Over-Medicating on Allergy Medications, and Neglecting Other Solutions?

Are Americans Over-Medicating on Allergy Medications, and Neglecting Other Solutions?


The statistics are grim. An estimated 30 percent of all Americans occasionally deal with some sort of allergic reaction, most commonly allergic conjunctivitis (which affects the eyes). Nearly 20 million American adults were diagnosed with hay fever — also called allergic rhinitis — in the last year alone, amounting to 7.7 percent of the adult population. Over 5 million children have suffered from hay fever symptoms.


The symptoms of allergic rhinitis, caused by airborne allergens, may be mild but tolerable for some people. They can also, however, become debilitating; interfering with quality of life and productivity during the daytime, and keeping you up at night. It is no wonder that anyone suffering from severe allergy symptoms would want to do whatever they can to find relief as soon as possible. How do you attain that? Very often, the answer lies in allergy medication.


Allergy medications play an important role in managing allergy symptoms, of course, but are we relying on them a little too much — in turn causing us to neglect the important steps we can take to reduce our exposure to allergens in the first place?


What Symptoms Do Airborne Allergies Cause?


All airborne allergens lead to identical symptoms, with some sufferers dealing with more severe, and others milder, reactions. The most common allergy symptoms, as well as some rarer ones, include:


  • Nasal allergy symptoms can include sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, and an irritated, red, and itchy nose. A decreased sense of smell and taste can also fall under this heading.
  • Allergies can also cause sinus pressure, which can cause a dull ache or a “stuffy” feeling around your face.
  • Eye-related allergy symptoms include redness, swelling, itchiness, and a sensation that you have something in your eye. Some people will have skin discoloration that looks like bruising around their eyes as well.
  • Respiratory symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing (making a whistling sound with each breath). Your shortness of breath may be so severe that you seek medical attention.
  • Skin reactions, such as localized skin rashes and hives that can occur all over the body.
  • Many allergy sufferers additionally report that their allergies make them feel tired and irritable, and that they have trouble concentrating. Sinus pressure can cause headaches, too.


People who have these symptoms may, if they made an appointment with their doctor, be invited to undergo blood testing or a skin prick test to definitively diagnose what substances they are allergic to. It is not uncommon for people with milder symptoms to simply be told that they likely have seasonal allergies, if they reported that their symptoms are tied to particular times of the year, either, however. In these cases, they may be instructed to use over-the-counter allergy medications to manage their symptoms.


What Types of Allergy Medications Are Available?


Research indicates that three quarters of Americans who were diagnosed with allergies take medications to help manage their symptoms. Allergy medications can either be over the counter or prescription-based, and medications designed to relieve airborne allergies include:


  • Antihistamines. When you are experiencing an allergic reaction, your body releases histamines, chemicals that cause many of your symptoms. Antihistamines block the action of these chemicals, thereby reducing your symptoms. Zyrtec is the most popular medication in this category, and Benadryl is another common choice. Antihistamines can be taken orally or as sprays.
  • Nasal decongestants. These include Sudafed and Afrin, and have the purpose of offering you relief from nasal symptoms.
  • Corticosteroids. These medications act as anti-inflammatory agents and can offer significant relief from allergy symptoms very quickly. They may be prescribed as systemic medications, including in the form of inhalers in people with asthma, but in the case of allergies, nasal sprays are common.
  • In severe cases, where patients do not notice symptom improvement after using the other options, allergy shots may be an option. This lengthy immunotherapy gradually trains your body to react less severely, and people who previously suffered from extreme allergy symptoms often report that they were very glad to have gone through the process.


Many people with allergies likewise turn to home remedies to manage their symptoms, and they can include steam inhalation therapy and herbal medications. Some of these remedies have some scientific merit, while others do not.


Managing Allergies: Is it Time for a More Systemic Approach?


While there is absolutely no question that allergy medications can raise your quality of life as an allergy sufferer, it is important to consider, as you head to the pharmacy for a refill, that reputable health organizations like the CDC, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and World Health Organization, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, only consider medications to be the second line of defense against allergies.


What might the very best defense against allergies be, if not medications, you may wonder? The answer would lie in eliminating or reducing your exposure to the allergens in question; a hard task, but not impossible.


The most common airborne allergens can be found inside your home as well as outdoors in the natural environment. They are tree, grass, and weed pollen, mold spores, cockroaches, dust mites and pet dander. Considering the fact that the average American spends around 90 percent of their time indoors, and much of it in their home, taking steps to reduce allergens and allergen exposure within your home would be the best possible course of action.


This is where it is extremely helpful to go through a thorough diagnosis to discover precisely what you are allergic to, because the measures you need to take differ slightly depending on whether you have pollen allergies or are allergic to substances that originate in your own home.


Everyone with indoor or outdoor allergies can benefit from:


  • Frequent vacuum cleaning to reduce the presence of allergies in the home.

  • Washing bedding and other fabrics, like curtains, pillows, and towels often. Getting rid of rugs, and replacing wall-to-wall carpets with more allergy-friendly solutions such as wood or tile floors.

  • The use of a true HEPA air purifier, which filters out over 99 percent of harmful particles in your indoor air, can offer significant relief.


People diagnosed with pollen allergies can additionally reduce their exposure to pollen in their home by:


  • Keeping their windows closed during pollen season to help prevent pollen from entering their home.

  • Removing their “outdoor clothes” and shoes, and showering, as soon as they come home and asking other members of their household to do the same.

  • Bathing any pets, like dogs, when they come home from walks outside, to prevent the pet from spreading pollen stuck in their fur all over the home.

  • When plants and trees that produce pollen they are allergic to are present in their yards, eliminating them.

They can limit their exposure to pollen outdoors by keeping an eye on daily pollen counts and staying indoors when they are high, and may also consider wearing an N95 respirator when they do have to leave their homes.

People diagnosed with allergies originating from within the home, such as dust mites, cockroaches, pet dander, and mold, should, meanwhile:


  • Ensure that the relative humidity levels in their home fall within the ideal range of 30 to 50 percent, which makes the environment less hospitable to roaches, dust mites, and mold alike. If you have a mold allergy and believe that a humidifier will help ease your symptoms, you are doing the worst possible thing — mold thrives in moist and damp environments. If your humidity levels exceed 50 percent, you will instead greatly benefit from a dehumidifier.

  • Increase ventilation to decrease humidity and allow the accumulation of indoor allergens to dissipate. This is done by opening the windows, for at least 15 minutes every day. It is best to open the windows either very early or very late in the day, when outdoor air pollution is not as high.

  • In the case of pet dander allergies, consider rehoming any pet they are allergic to, or otherwise bathing the pet frequently and keeping the animal out of their bedroom.

Before all else, however, people who are allergic to mold, dust mites, and mold should take steps to make sure they do not have infestations in their homes.

Here, it should be noted that some people who have believed that they suffer from seasonal allergies for a long time may instead, or additionally, in fact have indoor allergies. If your suffering is not confined to certain allergy seasons and in fact lasts throughout the year, this is a very likely scenario.

Around 10 percent of the American population is allergic to mold, and mold growth is a far more widespread problem in homes than many people are aware of. You may have a mold infestation in your home even if you do not see mold. It is often possible to instead smell mold, but as we have already noted, a decreased sense of smell is a possible allergy symptom. Mold often accumulates in hidden spaces, deep within your walls around leaky pipes, in damp attics, or in humid crawl spaces. This means that a mold problem you never even knew about could be responsible for much of your suffering.

Under the adage that prevention is far better than cure, people who suffer from allergy symptoms whenever they are home could consider having a mold inspection performed. MI&T is your ideal partner. As an independent mold inspection only company, we have no commercial biases. We are not afraid to tell you that not all molds are harmful to human health, because our sole mission is to inform — not to sell you needless but expensive mold remediation services. After we carry out a thorough visual mold inspection of your entire property, we move on to take air samples. After being analyzed in a lab, the results will tell you precisely what types of mold may be present in the air you breathe at home, in what concentrations, and what health impacts they can have.

A full mold inspection could lead you to discover that you no longer need to rely on a variety of allergy medications. If you have a mold allergy, eliminating mold from your home is frequently all that is required to eliminate your symptoms entirely — and that is true freedom.