If you spot me on the street during the first week of spring, you'd probably think I just finished a
crying fit. Instead, those bloodshot eyes and endless sniffles are the direct result of high pollen counts.
Fellow allergy sufferers know what I'm talking about - that first week of spring when the air feels so thick with pollen, it's like there's a green film on everything you touch. It can be a nightmare.
Over the years, I've learned a thing or two about how to handle the spring blast of allergens, and this week we're going to help you do the same. Here are some headlines with some interesting news about seasonal allergy symptoms (and a few tips to overcome them).
Allergy Season 2018: Starting Earlier, Lasting Longer, Nina Godlewski, Newsweek
Each year, we seem to think allergy season starts earlier. Well, maybe it's not just in our heads. In the article, Dr. Clifford Bassett, founder and director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, claimed, "We believe that spring allergy seasons are beginning earlier, lasting longer, so more time for pesky pollen to find their ways into your eyes, nose and throats."
It turns out, this shift in allergies might be related to rising temperatures around the globe, greenhouse gases, and even increases in rain. In fact, according to this article, allergy season hasn't even hit its peak for most of the country.
The Truth About Adult-Onset Allergies, Stacey Colino, U.S. News & World Report
If you're anything like me, your allergies may have evolved over the years. Well, this experience isn't unique. It's possible to develop adult-onset allergies – to pollen, certain foods, cosmetic ingredients or other culprits – at any time in your life.
What's more, "the prevalence of adult-onset allergies is on the rise," says Dr. Sunit P. Jariwala, director of allergy/immunology research at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
So, we've presented the allergy problem. But what are people supposed to do to handle these symptoms? You already know about antihistamines and tissues, but in my opinion, the best solution for allergy season comes right from the faucet. That's right – water.
First, if you want pollen out of your home, you'll need to get it off your clothes, and your body. A shower will get rid of any allergens present on your skin and hair, while a quick spin in the laundry will eliminate pollen from your clothes.
Water is even more effective inside your body. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, a salt water rinse for Neti pot can be made at home with regular tap water and some everyday household items. And, for more severe symptoms, vaporizers are another great option to consider that you can purchase with your FSA funds!
Finally, stay hydrated. Allergic reactions are caused by a histamine release in the body that results in your most common allergy symptoms (which is why we take antihistamines). Being dehydrated sparks a rise in histamine production in the body, which could make your allergies worse. Just another reason to up your water intake each day!
While allergy season is usually associated with the early spring, fall presents its own unique issues for those who are allergic to mold and ragweed. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), allergies to these substances result in allergic rhinitis, which is the medical term for the common allergy season symptoms of sneezing, a stuffy/runny nose, watery eyes and itching of the nose, eyes or the roof of the mouth.
Ragweed reaches its peak during the late summer and early fall, and wet weather combined with lingering warm temperatures can lead to an outbreak of mold spores, so autumn can be especially difficult for seasonal allergy sufferers, reports ACAAI. But if you're enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA), you can prepare for your worst symptoms as the season kicks off. Here are a few smart ways to spend your tax-free healthcare dollars this fall.
These are the most common and effective over-the-counter medications to curb allergy symptoms during any season. Antihistamines work by preventing the effects of a substance called histamine, which is produced by the body as an immune response to the presence of an allergen. Histamine can cause itching, sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.
- Saline Spray
If you find yourself being triggered by the presence of allergens indoors or outdoors, clearing your nasal passages is a quick way bring your symptoms under control. These saline sprays remove allergens, pollutants and other environmental irritants from your nasal passageways to help you breathe easily and keep your allergic reactions at bay.
- Neti Pot
While saline spray is great when on the go, many allergy sufferers have found success with Neti pots. These teapot-shaped devices use a homemade saline solution that is poured through the nose to remove allergens and other irritants from your nasal passages. This is a great option for those seeking a drug-free alternative.
Another way to treat irritated nasal passageways is through the soothing warmth and humidity of a vaporizer. Whether you are suffering from allergy symptoms or a nasty cold, vaporizers can penetrate deep into the sinuses, nose and throat to provide quick relief.
- Saline Nasal Wipes
Don't let your nose fall victim to irritation this fall! Saline nasal wipes are perfect for your home, car or backpack, are hypoallergenic and are far softer than standard tissues for when you need to clear out your nose in a hurry.
Boogies Wipes Saline Nose Wipes
The saline in these wipes helps dissolve pesky mucus in the nose, helping you breathe clearer.
Ask pet owners and they will tell you that their dogs or cats are like extended members of the family, which is why it isn't surprising that allergic pet owners choose to endure their symptoms rather than give their pets up. And the problem is a common one - according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 1 in 3 Americans have some form of pet allergy, some of which can develop from a young age, while others can develop later in life.
According to The Mayo Clinic, allergies occur when the body's immune system is triggered by the presence of foreign substances like pollen, mold or pet dander. When under threat, your immune system produces proteins known as antibodies, which protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause an infection. When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify your particular allergen as something harmful, even though it isn't.
The easiest solution to pet allergies is removing the pet from the home, but for those who can't imagine life without their pets, there are other options available. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), your benefit covers a wide range of potential treatments for pet allergies. Here are a few options to keep in mind.
Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is one of the most popular traditional treatments of preventing allergic reactions to allergens. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergy shots decrease the body's sensitivity to allergens and function much like a vaccine.
The body responds to injected amounts of a specific allergen, which is given in gradually increasing doses to boost one's immunity or tolerance to the substance. This treatment is eligible for FSA reimbursement and could be a beneficial approach for many pet owners.
Antihistamines are among the best options for allergy sufferers to control their body's immune response to the presence of allergens. According to The Mayo Clinic, histamine is a substance that is active during an allergic reaction, which can result in swelling, skin reactions and respiratory effects. Antihistamines can help relieve the itching, stuffy nose and sneezing that come with an allergic reaction. Best of all, over-the-counter antihistamines are FSA-eligible with a prescription from a doctor.
Decongestants are a type of medicine that are chemically distinct from antihistamines, but they are typically combined in most products to provide optimal relief from allergic symptoms. As opposed to fighting the body's production of histamine, decongestants assist in reducing swelling in nasal tissues to help you breathe more easily. Once again, these OTC medicines are FSA-eligible with a prescription.
- Nasal Irrigation
Last but not least, nasal irrigation is a great option for allergy sufferers to clear their nasal passages of mucous, allergens and other particulates that could contribute to their allergic reactions. Your FSA covers both saline irrigation rinses and Neti pots that can administer therapy directly to your nasal passages to alleviate your symptoms.
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Neti Pot and Supplies
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If you feel that familiar itch after you've spent a long summer's evening outdoors, chances are you have an annoying mosquito bite to deal with for days on end. Aside from the obvious discomfort, these bites carry real risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, bites from infected mosquitoes all over the U.S. can carry the risk of transmitting West Nile virus, encephalitis and more.
While you won't be able to prevent every mosquito bite, your flexible spending account (FSA) can help you prepare for the worst and bounce back quickly when bites do happen. Here are a few items to keep in mind when you're spending time outdoors this summer.
- Sunscreen with Insect Repellent
While bug spray is not FSA-eligible in accordance with IRS regulations, sunscreen is. So, those products formulated with insect repellent are a great way to provide a barrier between the sun's harmful rays and summertime bugs. Bull Frog contains broad spectrum protection against UVA/UVB rays that cause sunburn and a DEET-free insect repellent to keep mosquitoes at bay all summer long.
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- Mosquito Bite Pain Reliever
Did you know that heat therapy can be used to treat mosquito bites? It's true! Handheld devices that deliver targeted heat therapy to mosquito and insect bites can assist in combating the pain and itchiness associated with the after effects of these bites.
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- Itch Relief Sticks
Topical analgesics are tried-and-true methods of treating the symptoms of mosquito bites by combating the body's inflammatory response with antihistamines. These medications are applied to the affected area soon after the bite mark starts to form and they can ease the itching and burning sensations that result from it.
Check Out: Benadryl Itch Relief Stick 14 ml
- Cold Packs
Cold therapy is one of the most effective, drug-free methods of easing inflammation after an insect bite. Cold packs are great FSA-eligible products that can help you ease swelling and inflammation after an injury, and they are especially helpful in reducing the discomfort that comes with mosquito bites.
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Individuals with insect bite sensitivities that result in excessive swelling and redness may benefit more from an antihistamine in pill form instead. According to the University of Washington School of Health Sciences, experts suggest that those who have adverse reactions to insect bites should take the recommended dosage of an antihistamine before venturing outdoors. This can help prevent an extreme reaction and patients can control their symptoms by taking the medication in the days following exposure.
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BullFrog Mosquito Coast Pump Spray
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Therapik Mosquito Bite Pain Relief Device
Therapik's patented technology delivers heat in the specific temperature range necessary to neutralize venom.
For everything you and your loved ones need to stay healthy year-round, you can rely on FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!
Spring allergy season brings its own set of challenges for allergy sufferers, but the season can be even more difficult for those with asthma as well. Many individuals are confused by asthma and allergy symptoms because they are so similar, and often these two conditions are directly related to one another.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, more than 25 million Americans with asthma also have allergies, which is called allergic asthma. This condition occurs when asthma symptoms are triggered by airborne substances, such as pollen, pet dander, mold and other allergens that are present in the surrounding environment.
But not all allergy sufferers have asthma and understanding the differences between these conditions is key to managing one's symptoms of either condition. Let's examine the key characteristics of asthma and allergies from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
Asthma is an incurable condition in which breathing passages narrow and produce more mucous than normal, which can trigger breathing difficulties like wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Asthma can be triggered by a number of factors, but typically asthma is triggered by exercise, workplace irritants (dust, chemicals, gases) or allergens that are present in the environment.
Allergies are a direct immune response after allergens enter or come into contact with the body and produce an allergic reaction. These allergic responses are caused by the body's natural ability to produce antibodies, which typically ward off foreign invaders and fight infections in the body. However, when an allergen (such as dust, pollen or pet dander) is introduced to the immune system, antibodies will recognize this as a potential threat (when it is actually harmless), and will trigger an immune system response that can manifest itself as sinus, digestive system, skin or respiratory issues.
How do these two conditions relate?
While allergies can trigger asthma symptoms, the primary difference between an allergic reaction and an asthma attack is where it occurs within the body, reports Health Guidance. Allergens trigger a response in the upper respiratory system, while asthma attacks affect the lungs and upper bronchial passages. In the case of allergic asthma, allergens are the primary driver of the triggering of asthma symptoms, which presents unique challenges from a treatment perspective.
As such, individuals who have both allergies and asthma will have to take more advanced steps to control their conditions and minimize their symptoms. The vast majority of medical treatments will treat either asthma or allergies, but some can also treat both conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include:
- Allergy Shots: Regular allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy that helps to treat both asthma and allergy symptoms by gradually reducing the body's immune system response to particular allergy triggers. For this treatment to be effective, allergy shots are administered over a period of 3-5 years to ultimately diminish allergic and asthmatic reactions.
- Anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) therapy: Coming into contact with an allergen will trigger an immune response in the body which consists of a release of antibodies to attack the allergen, which are referred to as lgE. This sparks the release of histamine, which causes an inflammatory effect in the body that results in allergic reactions. Medications such as omalizumab (Xonair) directly interferes with lgE in the body to help prevent histamine release and subsequent allergic reactions.
- Leukotriene Modifiers: These medicines are used to control the symptoms of allergic rhinitis or allergies, as well as tackling asthma attacks as well. These drugs block the action of leukotrienes, which are chemicals released by the immune system that cause tightening of breathing passages and the production of excess mucous. The most common of these is Montelukast (Singulair).
This allergy season, make sure you're prepared for the worst by shopping for Allergy, Sinus & Combinations at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA/HSA eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!
Spring is here in full swing, and if you suffer from seasonal allergies, this is a particularly trying time of year. High pollen counts will lead to runny noses, itchy eyes and sneezing throughout the early weeks of April as the seasonal bloom commences, and while you can't control the conditions outdoors, you can take the appropriate steps to make your home a haven from the allergic triggers outside!
Allergens in the home can exacerbate your symptoms or interfere with your sleep cycle, so it's important to take the necessary steps to keep your home clean this spring to keep your allergic symptoms under control. Here are a few great ideas to keep in mind from FSAstore.com.
- Change your "coming home" routine
Open windows are the primary culprit for allergens making their way into the home, but even if you keep them closed all spring, you can bring a large amount of pollen, dust and other irritants into your abode on your clothing. As allergy season gets underway, make conscious changes to your routine when you walk in the door.
First, remove all clothing and put it in the laundry machine if available to wash off all potential allergens. Also, make an effort to take a shower soon after coming indoors to wash off all pollen and particulates on your hair and skin that could be transferred to bedding and other surfaces in your home.
- Switch out your winter drapes
A smart change for seasonal allergy sufferers in spring is to switch out your winter drapes with lightweight curtains. Thick drapes with pleats are notorious for trapping dust and other allergens, so opt for blinds that can be wiped down quickly during the spring. Or as an alternative, opt for machine washable drapes that you can clean several times throughout the season to keep your home free of allergens.
- Invest in mattress and pillow allergy covers
In addition to the buildup of allergens on sleeping surfaces, dust mites also become increasingly prevalent during the spring months. Anti-allergy mattress and pillow covers are made with tightly-woven synthetic materials or vinyl to provide a barrier between the person and the dust mites on the underlying sleeping surface. These covers keep the allergens that have built up on the bedding from becoming airborne when shifting during sleep, which can dramatically reduce your allergic symptoms.
The difference in the cost of an allergy cover vs. a standard pillow/mattress cover may even be eligible for FSA reimbursement, so check with your benefits administrator before making a purchase!
- Carpeting vs. bare floors
Ideally, those who suffer from seasonal allergies will have bare floors in their home (hardwood, vinyl, etc.) that are easier to clean and do not retain as many allergens. However, if your home is carpeted, this will require extra care during allergy season. First, invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to trap allergens when cleaning, or look into a steam cleaning service that utilizes high temperature cleaning devices to remove allergens.
- Use a dehumidifier
The rainy, wet nature of spring lends itself to rapid mold growth, and you can make an effort to stem the growth of mold in your home by using a dehumidifier. Mold thrives in moist, humid environments that have a relative humidity above 60 percent, reports Allergy Consumer Review. In areas where mold growth is prevalent, run a dehumidifier to lower the humidity to 50 percent where mold growth will become inactive.
This allergy season, control your symptoms with Allergy, Sinus and Combinations and other anti-allergy products from FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits.
While spring allergies certainly get a lot more attention when pollen levels peak, winter has its own set of various indoor irritants to trigger those allergy symptoms many of us know all too well. As your furnace kicks in during the winter months, it can send dust mites, mold spores, and insect parts into the air which can find its way to your breathing passages to cause an adverse reaction.
One to way to help mitigate symptoms is to get a better idea of where these allergy triggers are surfacing from. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that particularly love to hide in mattresses and bedding. Their droppings and remains, when airborne, are most likely the source of your symptoms.
Additionally, mold can be found in damp and humid areas such as basements and bathrooms, but can also manifest itself under moldy carpets, soggy drywall, and areas with water leaks. As you spend more time indoors in the winter, these allergens become more prominent in causing discomfort and allergic reactions.
Treatment for your winter allergies can include Antihistamines and Decongestants, both of which are available for purchase with an FSA (with a prescription) on FSAstore.com. Antihistamines help to reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching. Decongestants clear mucus in the nose and lungs to relieve congestion and swelling.
Antihistamines (Prescription required to purchase with FSA):
Decongestants (Prescription required to purchase with FSA):
If neither of these work and your symptoms are serious, you may want to consider immunotherapy, which consists of allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets. Immunotherapy should expose your body to gradually bigger doses of the allergen to curb your symptoms for the longer term.