For some, the change in seasons means colder days have come and gone and warmer days are on their way. But for the approximately 36 million people in the US who suffer from seasonal allergies, the switch of seasons is a bit more daunting. Test your knowledge about allergies in the statements below and then get informed on the full story in the paragraphs that follow. Knowing the true from false allergy misconceptions can help you to clear up your allergies FAST.
1. Allergies are worse in certain cities. FALSE! While there are climates that have higher pollen counts because of native plants that populate the area, allergy sufferers are predisposed to developing allergies regardless of their environment. It’s the individual’s immune system and genetic make up that is more—or less—sensitive to allergens, not the allergens themselves.
2. Vodka can help allergies. TRUE. This one comes with a caveat. The catch here is that vodka is a better choice of alcohol if you are susceptible to seasonal allergies compared to beer, wine, and other liquors that contain allergy producing histamine, a product of yeast and bacteria that are part of the fermentation process. Wine and beer also contain sulfites, which can also aggravate allergies. Going to happy hour? Enjoy a pineapple juice and vodka over ice.
3. Allergies are not hereditary. FALSE! Research has shown genes play a factor in allergy sufferers. Your genes are part of your immune system, and depending on the blueprint handed down from your ancestors you can be more or less susceptible to having allergic reactions to different substances. This isn’t 100%, but it can be used as a good guideline for being cautious. If you are highly allergic to cats, it is prudent to be on alert for your children.
4. Most pollen allergies are caused by flowers. FALSE! Grass pollen is the most common seasonal allergy trigger, flower pollen is heavy and doesn’t get swept up into the air like pollens from trees, grasses or weeds.
5. Tomatoes can worsen allergies. TRUE. They have shown to trigger reactions in grass pollen-sensitive individuals. Additionally, you should avoid cured meats, cheeses, red wine, and beer as they are high-histamine foods as well.
6. Allergies get worse as you get older. FALSE! They can be just as bad in adulthood or childhood, or vice versa. During childhood you may be highly sensitive to certain pollens, and then find that you build tolerance as you age. On the other hand, you may have never suffered allergies as a child, but as an adult you find that you are more sensitive to airborne allergens than when you were younger.
7. Red wine worsens allergies. TRUE. See #2 above. The sulfites and histamine in red wine makes it a big allergy offender, according to a UK survey. About 75% of people with asthma say that red wine triggers their symptoms, followed by white wine, beer, and hard cider. Other research has shown that chronic allergy sufferers may experience a dilation of the blood vessels in the nose and sinuses after drinking wine.
8. Medicine is the only cure for allergies. FALSE! You can help your allergies by changing your diet and lowering stress. I often have my patients start addressing their allergies by taking a look at their daily eating and lifestyle. Many symptoms of allergies can be relieved by removing toxic foods such as highly processed and overly sweetened items, as well as dairy, gluten, and red meats.
9. Allergies mostly happen in the spring. FALSE! Allergies can occur at any time of the year. Springtime does bring more pollen in many areas, and this can exacerbate the sneezing, runny noses, and itchy eyes—but summertime can be just as severe as spring thanks to the heat and mold that can accumulate. Winter and fall can also be a bad time for sufferers of pet allergies and indoor mold.
10. Sudden changes in your diet will worsen allergies. FALSE! The opposite is actually true. Food can be a powerful remedy to allergies. You can reduce and relieve many symptoms of allergy flare ups by removing dairy, lactose, gluten, sugar, refined flour, and other inflammatory foods to quickly improve allergy symptoms.