Even if you’re careful to stay away from certain pollens and constantly sweep dust bunnies from your home, some unexpected causes of allergies may surprise you.
When your nose gets stuffy and your eyes become red and irritated, you may automatically blame your symptoms on spring’s common allergy culprits:
- Other allergens
Although many people experience seasonal allergies, everyone has different allergy triggers, so you can’t really fault the springtime weather for all symptoms. Everyday items can also cause your allergy symptoms to flare up.
[Related: Prepare Your House for the Spring Allergy Season]
If you’ve been experiencing allergy symptomssuch as runny nose, watery eyes or sneezing, you might be allergic to one of the following 10 unexpected allergy triggers, regardless of the season. We’ll explain each trigger, then suggest ways to find relief.
10 Unexpected Allergy Triggers
Manufacturers commonly add phthalatesto plastics as softeners and solvents. These chemicals can cause symptoms similar to those of hay fever and eczema, an allergy-related skin condition.
To help avoid flare-ups, steer clear of plastic containers made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC, or vinyl). Surprisingly, phthalates are commonly found in food products, particularly dairy. So if you’re extra-sensitive, opt for organic dairy goods or skip dairy altogether.
You consciously close your windows to keep plant pollen outside, but what about the plants inside your home? Indoor plants release pollen and collect mold and dust, which can also trigger allergy symptoms.
Indoor plants known to cause allergy symptoms include ficus, yucca, ivy and palm trees. Limit the number of plants in your home, and keep any plants you do have in well-ventilated areas.
Don’t forget to check the leaves and soil weekly for mold. If any mold appears, clean it promptly with a spray bottle full of water and a damp paper towel. You can add a light layer of baking soda, powdered cinnamon or apple cider vinegar to the plant’s soil to deter future growth
[Related: How to Prevent Mold in Your Home]
Seasoning and medicinal herbs have many benefits, but for some people, they can cause nausea, stomach upset and headaches. Herbs that can cause allergic reactions include chamomile, echinacea and dandelion — all come from the same plant family as ragweed, a common allergen.
To reduce potential reactions, skip that cup of nighttime chamomile tea or therapeutic echinacea brew. If you notice you have any allergy symptoms when eating food seasoned with certain herbs, avoid those seasonings in future dishes. And if you have any allergy-causing herbs in your garden, it’s likely best to remove them.
[Related: 5 Tips for Gardening With Allergies]
If your skin becomes red and itchy after you wear certain outfits, you may be sensitive to a dye or chemical in the fabric or to a metal in the zipper, snap or buckle.
This sensitivity causes a skin condition called contact dermatitis, which occurs when the skin develops an allergic reaction after being exposed to a certain substance. You can prevent contact dermatitis by avoiding the allergy-inducing chemical or metal.
You can also opt for light-colored clothing — it has less dye — and try natural fabrics like cotton and linen.
5. Alcoholic Beverages
Beer, wine and liquor contain histamine, a chemical that your body releases during allergic reactions. Drinking alcoholic beverages can lead to common symptoms of hay fever, including sneezing, itching, headaches and coughing.
If you’re prone to allergies, you may want to skip that nightcap and go for a Shirley Temple.
Texans typically spend a lot of time in the swimming pool when the temperatures rise and the weather gets nice, so you know how harsh chlorine can be to your eyes and skin. But those who suffer from seasonal allergies can be even more sensitive to chlorine.
Frequent contact with chlorine can irritate the respiratory tract enough to trigger allergies. Whenever you take a dip in the pool or clean with chlorine bleach, keep the area well ventilated to reduce your exposure.
[Related: How to Spot Swimmer’s Sinusitis]
7. Candles and Air Fresheners
You like your home to smell nice, but some air fresheners and candles can prompt allergy-like symptoms, such as headache or runny nose.
For an allergy-friendly air freshener, simmer spices like whole cinnamon, clove and nutmeg on the stovetop. To remove odors, try opening a box of baking soda or purchasing activated charcoal air purifying bags.
Some people who suffer from allergies experience more severe symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes, when they’re under high stress levels. Alleviating stress won’t cure allergies, but it may help decrease the frequency of intense symptoms. To help relieve stress, try making time for fun and relaxation in your life.
You can also try healthy activities such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, stretching or casual walking for relief. If your stress is severe or causes chronic anxiety or panic attacks, consult a doctor.
You already know how harmful smoking is to your overall health, specifically in terms of cancer and lung disease. But did you know that cigarettes can also worsen seasonal allergies?
The many chemicals in cigarettes can spark a negative reaction in the immune system, making you more sensitive to pollen, mold spores and other allergy triggers. And even if you don’t smoke, being in the same room with a smoker can irritate your symptoms.
So if you suffer from seasonal allergies, avoid smoking and kindly ask others not to smoke around you. If you’ve been around cigarette or cigar smoke, change and wash the clothes you were wearing as soon as possible.
[Related: How Smoking and Pollutants Affect You]
This may actually be the most common culprit, but the details could come as a shock. Many people think the blooming flowers are to blame for seasonal allergies, but in fact, it’s the wind that carries the pollen around!
Keep an eye out for weather reports with overly windy conditions, and then prepare yourself as best as you can.
Preparing for windy days with high pollen levels may be difficult, but a few common options are wearing masks (N95 masks are ideal, but any mask is better than none), taking an antihistamine (if it’s safe for you to do) or simply staying indoors with the windows shut.
[Related: How Are Allergies Affected by the Weather?]
Find Lasting Relief With Dr. Pasha
Although you can try to avoid these triggers — and avoidance is key in allergy management— keeping away can provide only temporary relief. You have a variety of treatment options, but the one way to truly treat the underlying causes of allergies is to undergo allergy testing.
A common doctor-recommended form of allergy treatment is immunotherapy, or allergy shots. Immunotherapy works by carefully introducing an allergen into your body. This treatment exposes you to triggers gradually without provoking a severe allergic response, much like a vaccine.