You can’t sanitise away allergies
The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a big shift in the way that we live our lives.
We’re not talking about working from home or ordering groceries online, but rather our personal hygiene and the preventative measures that we’re taking to not only protect ourselves but our vulnerable community members.
Precautionary measures like hand washing, sanitising, and social distancing have seen global flu infections plummet.
If you’re part of the 20% of the people in Australia and New Zealand who experience hayfever and allergies, we have some unfortunate news: these measures, while sensible and effective against COVID-19 and viral infections, will not protect you against hayfever or allergy symptoms.
However, this isn’t to say that you’re powerless in the fight against allergies. In fact, there is plenty that you can do to help minimise your exposure to triggers and treat your symptoms.
What causes allergies?
The world allergy refers to the body’s reaction to a foreign substance (often called an irritant or allergen) that stimulates the body to release a chemical called histamine which attempts to rid the body of allergens.
Some examples of common allergens include:
According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, allergy is one of the major factors associated with the cause and persistence of conditions such as allergic rhinitis (hayfever), eczema and asthma.
Identify your allergy
Lots of people know what they’re allergic to. However, some people might not be aware of what’s causing their symptoms.
The first step is to speak to your pharmacist or doctor. Based on your symptoms and exposure to common allergens, they can help you to identify what you’re allergic to.
Your doctor may need to perform some tests to establish this, or they may refer you onto a specialist who can help.
Establish a treatment plan
Allergies can range from mild to life-threatening, so it’s extremely important to create an allergy treatment plan with your doctor that details what to do in the event that your allergies are triggered.
There are lots of treatment methods available, from antihistamine tablets for mild, seasonal allergies through to EpiPens for anaphylaxis (a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction).
Once you have an allergy treatment plan in place, your pharmacist can guide you with finding the right medication for you based on the advice of your doctor.
One of the best ways to manage an allergy is to try and limit your exposure to your trigger. The way in which you do this will be determined by the allergen itself.
Pollen allergies are often worse from late winter through to spring. This is an especially important time for people with pollen allergies.
Identify high-risk days for pollen. You can easily do this by downloading the AusPollen app for your area or visiting www.pollenforescast.com.au.
Remove any plants that trigger your symptoms from your garden and particularly inside the home.
Keep windows closed, both at home and when you’re in the car. Keep the filters on your air conditioners clean.
Exercise indoors, particularly on high-pollen days.
Dust and pet dander
You might think you’re allergic to dust itself, but often it’s the dust mites that feed off it that trigger allergy symptoms. It could also be an allergy to pet hair, or pet dander (tiny flakes of skin from your pet).
Keep your house clean and dry.
Wash your linen once a week using hot water.
Avoid kapok or feather pillows, and seal your pillow and/or mattress in a protector designed to shield it from dust mites.
Remove sheepskin or woollen underlays.
Vacuum at least once a week, and wear a dust mask while vacuuming.
Purchase a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter for your air conditioning and heating unit.
Don’t let your pets onto your furniture, and keep them out of the bedroom if possible.
Keep an eye out for visible mould and remove it using bleach or another cleaning product designed for mould removal.
Make sure that there’s plenty of ventilation in your home, especially in the bathroom, laundry, and kitchen.
Turn on the extraction fan in these areas when showering, cooking, or doing laundry.
Be sure to have your carpets regularly cleaned and dried, and vacuum them regularly.
Keep an eye out for leaks and seal them immediately.
Dry clothes outdoors where possible, or use a tumble dryer.
Invest in a dehumidifier to reduce excess moisture in the home.
For more information or personalised advice, speak to your local Capital Chemist pharmacist.