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Allergies affect as many as 2.6 billion people worldwide, which is 30-40 percent of all people. Annually, the U.S. spends $1.8 billion on over-the-counter medications to get relief. One out of every three people suffer from some form of allergy and up to 80 percent are allergic to more than one substance.
Everyone has their own unique combination of allergic triggers and not all of them are obvious. You may be sensitized to several allergen sources, but not enough to trigger symptoms when you’re exposed to only one of them. But when you encounter multiple substances that you’re allergic to at the same time, they can add up and you may start experiencing symptoms like itchy eyes or a runny nose.
Common allergy drivers include pollen, food, dust, medications, mold, animal dander, insect stings and pet dander. Determining if you’re allergic and identifying your allergic triggers can help you stay below your symptom threshold - the point where you start experiencing allergy symptoms. A simple test conducted by your primary care physician may give you the answers you need.
Talk to your health care provider about your allergies. Start by sharing a detailed history of your symptoms, including when the symptoms arise (time of day and time of year), whether you take medications for your symptoms and whether those medications help.
If you already have an idea of which allergens irritate your system or have a diagnosis after testing, then you can work with your health care provider to create an effective treatment plan. You might start by asking these questions:
Your treatment plan will likely involve medications and lifestyle choices, which get the best results when applied together.
Make lifestyle adjustments to reduce your allergen exposure. People with food allergies need to avoid eating (and sometimes touching) certain ingredients, but people with environmental allergies may find it trickier to avoid their triggers. In most places, it can be nearly impossible to completely avoid airborne allergens like pollen and grass. It still helps to minimize contact with your allergens because below a certain level of exposure to allergens—called your symptom threshold—you won’t experience any symptoms. If your exposure to allergens crosses your symptom threshold, you’ll start to sneeze, itch and cough, whatever your reaction may be.
If you suffer from indoor/outdoor or seasonal allergies, it’s best to combine a treatment plan with preventive measures. There are a number of ways to help prevent allergic reactions:
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