Fall brings the scent of spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon and fresh fallen leaves along with the return of the allergy season for many people. Mold and ragweed are the most common culprits during the fall seasonal in the US. Ragweed can travel hundreds of miles in the wind and cause allergy problems. People allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to bananas, sunflower seeds, zucchini and melons. Allergy season does not occur only during the fall. Spring allergies can be relentless to those who are allergic to blooming flowers and tree pollen. A mild winter can cause an early pollination and a torturous spring allergy season. Trees such as oak, pine, birch and cedar along with nettle and Bermuda grass cause lots of spring allergy symptoms. Tree pollen is highest in the morning hours and on warm, windy days. Each person will experience symptoms based on their own specific allergy. Allergens enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, or contact with the skin or mucus membranes. Because people with diabetes may be more vulnerable to allergies, it is important to learn how to ward off the symptoms of allergies or treat them as needed. Pollen counts during allergy seasons are reported on the local weather report so stay tuned to your local TV and radio station or search for this info an popular smartphone apps so you can be properly prepared.
Do Allergies Elevate Blood Sugars?
According to Dr. Gerald Bernstein, director of the Diabetes Management Center at Beth Israel Medical Center in NY, “allergies do not directly affect blood sugar” but you do need to watch for certain things. People with Type 1 diabetes have shared on multiple blogs, “their blood sugars do elevate during allergy season.” This may be attributed to a stress hormone called cortisol.
What Is an Allergy and What Are the Symptoms
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, about 50 million Americans suffer with some type of allergies. Diabetes type 1 is an autoimmune disorder and allergies are as well. Many people with type 1 or 2 diabetes suffer from allergies. When your body responds to allergens, it releases antibodies to combat them. Histamines are released into your bloodstream, which trigger allergy symptoms. Allergy symptoms may include a dry scratchy throat, sneezing and sinusitis. It can also cause itchy red eyes, dark circles under the eyes, watery eyes with tears, a post nasal drip, swelling of your lips, hands, face or tongue. You might have trouble breathing, hoarseness, a rash, or wheezing as well as tightness in your chest, bloating or stomach cramps. Fatigue, which is a symptom of both low and high blood sugar, can also be a symptom of allergies.
Dealing with Allergies and the Outdoors
Ragweed flowers from the middle of August through the end of October. To minimize it from growing in your backyard, plant cover crops such as buckwheat or clover. Fallen leaves are a place where mold thrives, especially when it rains or when stored in wicker planters. A pile of leaves is dangerous for someone with mold allergies. Clean and dry out plant containers before they develop mold which may irritate your fall allergy symptoms. Proper maintenance of your backyard can help reduce the irritants associated with fall allergies. If you do choose to garden, always wear a mask with microfibers to help eliminate symptoms. Wear a hat, scarf, long sleeves and long pants to help reduce pollen from sticking on your body. Feel free to exercise outdoors on cool, cloudy days if there is little or no wind. When pollen counts are high, choose an indoor stationary bike, a treadmill, a fitness center, a Zumba class, boxing, swimming in an indoor pool or a spinning class. Wear a pedometer to track your steps whether walking indoors or outdoors to help with your blood sugar control. Exercise is necessary with allergies or not. Shower and wash your hair when returning inside to reduce the amount of pollen stuck to your body.
Dealing with Allergies and the Indoors
Often people stay indoors to avoid allergy symptoms. This does not work if you are letting the allergens inside. Clean the house regularly and often by dusting, washing, mopping and vacuuming. Clean your air conditioner and furnace filters to reduce the pollen in your home or office. For even better results, use a high efficiency particulate air or HEPA filter in your vacuum and home. HEPA filters force air through the fine mesh and traps particles that cause allergies such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander. HEPA filters in vacuum cleaners, “throw less dirt and fewer dust mites back into the room.” An additional benefit of cleaning the house filters is reduced energy bills in time for the chilly fall season. Once you have a clean indoor environment, stay inside during the early and mid-morning hours when pollen levels are typically the highest. Consider investing in an air filter tower which may reduce allergy symptoms as well and store in the room where you spend the most time. Allergens remain in drapes, curtains, pillows and bedding and should be completely washed and cleaned both spring and fall season. Cover pillows and mattresses in special protective covers to keep dust mites away. Wash bedding and towels in hot water. Carpets and rugs harbor pet dander, dust mites and other allergens and should be maintained regularly. Hard floors are preferred such as wood, marble, vinyl or tile to reduce the chance of allergies. Try a humidifier when you use steam heat which may increase house dryness and allergy symptoms. A dehumidifier will also help keep humidity down. Place one in your basement, attic, bathroom and closets to reduce mold and mildew. House humidity levels should be kept between 35-50%. Clean out heat ducts and change the filter before putting on the heat during the cooler season since heat ducts will contain dust mites that accumulated over the summer. Excess dust mites and pet dander will cause wheezing, sneezing and runny noses.
What Else Can You Do for Allergies
Drink plenty of filtered water daily during the fall and spring allergy season. Histamine, which triggers allergy symptoms, is released by your body to stop water loss. Drinking water prevents the release of histamine. Eating certain drinks and foods can aggravate allergy symptoms. Do not over indulge in foods and beverages that produce mucous such as ice cream, cheese, yogurt and milk. Avoid caffeine and processed foods as well. Plan meals with wholesome food choices to combat hunger pangs by including fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low fat dairy. Avoid alcohol that contains sulfites such as red wine. Alcohol will also dehydrate you and it may cause fluctuating blood sugar levels. Allergy symptoms can also set off a series of events that may affect your blood sugar levels. Test your blood sugar regularly during the spring and fall allergy season. When pollen counts are low, open windows and doors to allow fresh air in instead of recirculated air. Use the air conditioning in your car when pollen counts are high and open car windows for fresh air on a cool and cloudy day. Use hot and cold compresses to reduce pain, headaches and swelling caused by allergies. Keep lubricating eye drops in the refrigerator to help soothe itchy and swollen eyes. Use a Neti-pot to flush out nasal passages or use saline nose drops to keep membranes moist without drug side effects. Try essential oils such as lavender, menthol or eucalyptus in a diffuser to help clear nasal passages. Think about taking a probiotic supplement or eat foods that increase healthy bacteria to boost your immune system. Foods such as yogurt, kefir, sour pickles and sauerkraut are helpful. Acupuncture may be another potential remedy for allergy symptoms.
Medications for Allergies – Otc and Prescription
There are basic categories of allergy medications. Included are antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroids. Other allergy treatments require a skin test or blood test and may include immunotherapy such as oral drops and allergy shots. Allergy shots may be given for several months or more to reduce sensitivity to allergy triggers.
- Antihistamines. Antihistamines reduce allergy symptoms such as sneezing and watery eyes. They can cause you to feel more hyper and agitated and create difficulty when falling asleep. They come in the form of pills, liquids, creams, lotions, sprays and eye drops. Be aware of which kind you are taking by always reading labels. Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec are examples.
- Decongestants. Decongestants help dry up mucus and reduce nasal symptoms by constricting blood vessels. They come in sprays, pill form or liquids. Do not use longer than three days without consulting your health care provider because prolonged use can make congestion worse. Decongestants can raise heart rate, blood pressure and possibly blood sugar. Examples are Afrin and Sudafed.
- Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids or steroids come in a pill form, inhalers, injectables, eye drops, creams and liquids. They are available in both OTC and by prescription. Steroids reduce inflammation and swelling but cause the liver to produce more sugar and can raise blood sugars. Examples are Flonase, Qvar, Nasacort and prednisone. Always consult your physician before taking these medications and watch blood sugars.
Consult with your diabetes care team before taking any prescription or over-the-counter allergy medications to avoid contraindications. Steroids can elevate your blood sugar, but you may need to take them. Increased testing of your blood glucose will be required if your doctor recommends this type of allergy medication. Always look for sugar-free OTC medications for allergy symptoms.
Allergies may be inevitable for some people, but being well-prepared can minimize your symptoms and any future complications. Take precautions before your allergy symptoms strike. This makes it possible to enjoy the beauty of the fall and spring seasons without feeling miserable!
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NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.