Allergy and Asthma Lifestyle Tips

Life with allergies or asthma doesn't have to be miserable. Whether the source of your misery is pollen, dust, cosmetics or even exercise, there are plenty of practical suggestions for declaring a truce with your designated trigger or allergen.

Gardening with Allergies
Having outdoor allergies doesn't mean you have to become a prisoner of pollen counts. Take our quiz to find out how much you know and to get some practical tips on staying more comfortable during allergy season.

Even those with seasonal allergies can exercise their green thumb as long as they take some precautions. Below are some tips to help make gardening a sneeze-and-wheeze-free experience.

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  • Avoid gardening on warm or windy days. This is when pollen counts are likely to be highest.
  • Garden after a rain, when pollen has been washed from the air.
  • Wear a mask while you work in your garden, rake leaves or mow your lawn.
  • Keep your gardening tools outside.
  • When you take a break, wash your face to remove accumulated pollen.
  • Have special gardening clothes and keep gardening shoes outside. Shower when you finish gardening and change your clothing.
  • Grow plants that are less likely to induce allergic reactions. Talk to a knowledgeable florist or your doctor about which trees, shrubs and flowers will be less likely to irritate your allergies. 
  • When cutting flowers for inside, don't include decorative grasses in your arrangement because they can release their pollen throughout your house.

Living with Exercise-Induced Asthma

Asthma doesn't have to keep you out of athletics. In fact, one study found that one in six American athletes in the 1996 Olympics had a history of asthma. Famous athletes with asthma include NBA star Dennis Rodman, Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken and Baseball Hall of Famer Jim "Catfish" Hunter.

If you are part of the 11 percent of the population who become asthmatic with exercise, these fitness activities may be more appropriate for you:

  • swimming
  • walking
  • relaxed biking
  • hiking
  • downhill skiing
  • baseball
  • football
  • wrestling
  • golfing
  • gymnastics
  • surfing
  • short track and field events

Cosmetic Allergies

The source of your allergies could be as plain as the nose on your face. Studies indicate that up to 10 percent of the population may have a reaction to a cosmetic during their lifetime. The average adult uses at least seven different skin-care products in a day, including fragrances, moisturizers, skin cleansers, hair-care items, deodorants, antiperspirants, and cosmetics.

Fragrances are the greatest offenders. There are more than 5,000 basic fragrances, encompassing far more than cologne or perfume. Countless skin care products, soaps, shampoos, lipsticks, sunscreens and lotions contain fragrance. Some people are sensitive to the fragrance chemical used in these various products. Others are sensitive to chemical preservatives in cosmetics (to keep skin care products from spoiling) as well as antioxidants, sunscreen ingredients and other inactive ingredients.

Fragrance-free products can be safely used by those with a fragrance allergy, but even products labeled "unscented" may not be allergen-free as they may contain a masking fragrance added to cover up the chemical smell. "There are very few truly preservative-free products," warns dermatologist Anthony F. Fransway, M.D., of Fort Myers, Fla. "Most cosmetic items have an aqueous base or compartment in which bacterial and fungal overgrowth and spoilage may occur. Once a preservative allergy is identified through specific testing, cosmetics free of the offending agent may be identified and used safely."

The face, lips, eyes, ears, and neck are the most common locations for cosmetic allergy. Additionally, hands can be affected by moisturizers or nail products. Adverse reactions include irritant contact dermatitis, which produces burning, stinging, itching and redness. The most common skin irritants are bath soaps, detergents, antiperspirants, astringents, eye makeup, moisturizers, permanent hair solutions and shampoos.

Dermatologists recommend that people who experience allergic contact dermatitis follow these steps and consult a dermatologist for specific patch testing once the skin reaction is clear:

  • For clothing care, double rinse all detergents and avoid all fabric softeners.
  • Try to wear pure, untreated cotton.
  • Avoid permanent press or cotton blends. Silk and polyester are acceptable.
  • Wash all new clothing items five times before wearing.
  • Use only fragrance-free soaps, body cleansers, shampoos and conditioners.
  • Avoid all perfumes, colognes, and after-shaves.
  • Do not use any fingernail care products or hair spray.