Last year was one of the worst allergy seasons on record, and this year’s allergy season is springing up early, bringing the dreaded wheezes and sneezes to people everywhere. With all the myths and misconceptions out there about relieving allergy symptoms, it’s hard to know the best way to fight off a runny nose, calm watery, itchy eyes, and stop congestion.
To set the record straight, we consulted allergy expert Robin Wilson, a nationally-recognized interior designer and ambassador for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. One of the pioneers of the eco-friendly movement, Robin has designed healthy, allergy-free spaces for clients such as Bill Clinton and Robert Kennedy, Jr. Below, Robin debunks some of the most common myths regarding allergy triggers and treatments.
Myth: “Vitamin C is beneficial for allergy sufferers.”
Truth: High levels of vitamin C can lower levels of histamine in the body, but beware: Fruit is not your friend. Many of our favorite fruits, from apples and bananas to peaches and plums, can cause symptoms similar to grass or tree pollen reactions. If you are sensitive, place the fruit in the microwave for 10 seconds to deactivate the proteins, and never eat the peel.
Myth: “A hypoallergenic dog won’t aggravate my allergies.”
Truth: There’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Poodles, Labradoodles and Yorkshire terriers are all considered hypoallergenic because they don’t shed hair, but there’s no scientific proof that these breeds produce lower amounts of Can f 1, the most common dog allergen. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after playing with an animal.
Myth: “Dust-free equals allergy-free.”
Truth: In general, the old saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” is true. However, a little exposure to dirt and germs is actually a good thing, because it strengthens the immune system.
Myth: “Shower often.”
Truth: Allergy sufferers are often advised to shower often to remove pollen and pet dander from their bodies. But beware of that shower curtain! The phthalate chemicals in vinyl shower curtains poison the air with humidity and heat, and also attract mold and mildew. Always use a nylon shower curtain liner.
Myth: “A pillowcase is enough to protect me from dust mites.”
Truth: If your pillow is more than three years old and has never been washed, it weighs more now than when you bought it. It’s loaded with dust mites that are next to your face while you sleep. Use hypoallergenic pillows over down pillows, and use a zippered pillow protector that you wash weekly for a double barrier. Wash your pillow twice a year and replace pillows every three years.
Myth: “Air fresheners will clean the air.”
Truth: Air fresheners are full of chemicals like formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, esters and alcohols. For a cleaner option, use a soy candle that contains essential oils and no perfumes. Or, try a hypoallergenic spray (such as Endust, which is certified by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America).