How Bad Is Your Allergy? (And What You Can Do About It)

Many of us are stricken with respiratory allergies, but because it can be such a subjective experience, we may never quite know how severe it may be impacting our daily life. For some of us, it may be a slight sniffle while for others it may feel like your body is constantly at war with itself.

For those of us that suffer severely from respiratory allergies, you may be dealing frequently with sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes. You may also end up missing out on seasonal activities that everyone gets so excited about.

Surprisingly, while most people know that allergies can be a serious issue, many of them don’t know who should treat their condition or how to best manage their symptoms. Depending on how bad your respiratory allergies are, you may experience varying levels of symptoms that can strongly impact your quality of life. Below, you’ll find seven simple questions that may help you determine the severity of your respiratory allergies in terms of frequency.

As frustrating as it is to deal with, understanding the severity of your respiratory allergies can help you get started on finding effective solutions so you can better manage the conditions and its impact on your daily life and well-being.

How Bad Are My Respiratory Allergies?

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More About Your Result

Disclaimer: Please note that the questionnaire and result above is for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The questions only relate to respiratory allergies in terms of nasal and ocular symptoms. Because of the subjective nature of symptom frequency and tolerance, the result may not be inline with your expectation. Please give us feedback on the questionnaire.

For the Mild Sufferers

You suffer from some degree of respiratory allergies. Thankfully, they’re only mild. Still, a Friday afternoon jog when the pollen counts are high could knock you out for the rest of the weekend.

Dealing with allergies at any level is frustrating but knowing what may be causing your symptoms can help you know how to treat them.

Since you have mild allergies, you probably experience some (if not all) of these symptoms:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Postnasal drip
  • Coughing

What can cause mild respiratory allergies

Most people are allergic to more than one thing, making it hard to pinpoint the exact cause of allergy symptoms at any given time. People with mild allergies can be allergic to any or all of the following (but don’t worry — there are simple ways you can alleviate your symptoms):

Hay fever

Hay fever refers to the allergic reaction caused by pollen. While many people think pollen allergies are reserved for the spring, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, May through October are prime months for pollen, it just comes from different plants. In the spring, you get airborne pollen from trees and certain grasses and weeds. In the summer, different grasses and weeds are pollinating, exposing you to a whole new set of allergens.

Starting in mid-August, ragweed flowers begin to release pollen. Though ragweed is usually found in rural areas, it can travel through the air for hundreds of miles. No matter where you live, ragweed could be aggravating your allergic symptoms. In fact, 75% of people who have spring allergies are also allergic to ragweed, so if you start experiencing allergy symptoms between August and October, that could explain why.

Mold

Mold is another very common allergic trigger and one that isn’t avoided easily. Mold can grow practically anywhere — from a pile of leaves in your yard to an undetected leak in your bathroom wall. When mold spores are released into the air, they can exacerbate allergy and even asthma symptoms. Unfortunately, it can be hard to predict where you might encounter mold, so planning ahead is key.

Dust and dust mites

Dust mites — microscopic pests that are related to the spider — thrive on the dust found throughout your home. Though dust mites are usually worse in the summer because they thrive in humidity, they can also be stirred up in the fall and winter when you start using your heating system.

Pet dander

Most people aren’t allergic to pet fur but to proteins in the pet’s urine, saliva, or dander (the dry skin that flakes off of an animal). When pet dander sheds, it becomes airborne and settles around your home and all over you. That’s right — pet dander clings to shoes, clothes, and hair because it’s so lightweight.

Oh, and did we mention that dust mites love to snack on dander? It’s a two-for-one allergy deal that could leave you a sneezy, itchy mess.

Smoke

You’re probably exposed to smoke more often than you think. Generally, people think of being allergic to cigarette smoke. But campfire smoke, barbecue smoke, or the smoke from your home’s fireplace can all contribute to your allergies, too. Smoke can cause even mild allergy sufferers to have respiratory irritation, so staying out of the direct path of smoke is a good idea.

Smog and ozone

Ozone is a mixture of air pollutants (like volatile organic compounds) and nitrogen oxides that combine with sunlight. Up high in the stratosphere, ozone protects us from the sun’s UV rays. However, when ozone is closer to the Earth’s surface, it’s considered a harmful pollutant.

Smog is made up of ground-level ozone that mixed with other gases, as well as particle pollution. Both are incredibly bad for your health — even if you aren’t technically allergic (air pollution is terrible for everyone, regardless).

For someone with mild allergies, exposure to ozone or smog for an extended period of time could cause coughing or other symptoms but should subside after a few hours away from it.

How to deal with mild respiratory allergies

  • Wash your hands with soap and water — Especially if you spend time outdoors or pet animals who have been outside, washing your hands will rinse away pollen and dander.
  • Check pollen counts — You can use this pollen count tracker from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology to see when pollen counts are high in your area. When they are high, consider staying indoors and turning on the air conditioning.
  • Keep your windows closed during high pollen seasons — Keeping your car and home windows closed can minimize the amount of pollen you’re exposed to and help lessen the severity of your symptoms.
  • Wear sunglasses — Shades will help block pollen from getting into your eyes and aggravating your symptoms.
  • Take steps to prevent mold — We actually wrote an entire guide to finding and preventing mold in your home. You can check that out here.
  • Rinse your nose — A simple saline solution can help clear your nose of any pollen,  mold spores or other allergens, helping you avoid more severe and prolonged symptoms.
  • Keep pets out of your bedroom — You spend a lot of time sleeping, so pet dander on your bedding could make your symptoms much worse.
  • Wash your bedding regularly — Even if you only have mild allergies, keeping your linens, comforters, and pillows clean can drastically reduce the amount of pet dander and dust mites that enter your airways.
  • Vacuum your home — Make sure that you’re vacuuming at least twice a week to remove any allergens that are hiding out in your carpet.

For the Moderate Sufferers

We know, nothing feels “moderate” when you’re dealing with respiratory allergies. And you’re right to feel that way — since you scored “moderate” on the respiratory allergy questionnaire, you understand what it’s like to have a condition that takes over your life.

The real difference between your respiratory allergy being moderate and severe is that you have some periods of relief from your symptoms. Moderate allergy sufferers need to pay a lot of attention to their surroundings and the types of allergens they’re exposed to in order to minimize discomfort.

Since you have moderate allergies, you may experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Postnasal drip

Below are several common respiratory allergens people face. As someone with moderate respiratory allergies, knowing what could trigger your allergies can help you plan ahead.

Hay fever

The allergic reaction caused by pollen, also called hay fever, is typically associated with the spring. However, May through October are prime months for pollen — it’s just released from different types of plants. In the springtime, certain grasses and weeds release pollen into the air.

Summer brings around the pollination of different grasses and weeds, exposing you to a new set of allergens. If you start experiencing allergy symptoms between August and October, it’s likely due to ragweed pollen. In fact, 75% of people who have spring allergies are also allergic to ragweed. If you have one, it’s likely you have the other.

While meant for the fertilization of other plants, much of the pollen makes its way onto your clothes, pet, and car. If you are moderately allergic to pollen, you may find it difficult to go outside when pollen counts are high. Your eyes get red and itchy, you can’t stop sneezing, and the back of your throat feel scratchy. Even though taking an allergy pill can alleviate your symptoms, this is only a temporary solution.

Mold

Mold is another common allergic trigger that isn’t easily avoided. It can grow anywhere that is dark and damp — from mold-friendly spots in your home to the pile of leaves in your yard. Mold releases spores into the air that, when inhaled, can cause allergy symptoms. If you have asthma, breathing in mold spores could make it worse.

Dust and dust mites

A microscopic pest called dust mites thrive on the dust found in places all over your home. Dust mites live best in high humidity, so are generally worse in the summer. But during the fall and winter when you turn your heat on again, the dust mites hiding out in vents can be stirred up and make their way back into the air.

Piles of clutter, unwashed clothing, and carpeting can contribute to higher levels of dust and dust mites — keeping your house clean and dust-free should alleviate many of your symptoms. That being said, when you do clean, be sure to ventilate properly because dust will get stirred up and become airborne.

Pet dander

When pet dander — the flakes of skin that your pet sheds — becomes airborne it settles around your home and all over you. That’s right — pet dander is lightweight and clings to shoes, clothes, and even hair. This means that you (and everyone else exposed to it) can track it everywhere.

If you have a moderate allergy to pet dander, you typically must be proactive about how often and for how long you’re exposed to it. Too much pet dander exposed to your nose or eyes could make your eyes red or irritate your nose.

Smoke

Generally, people think of being allergic to cigarette smoke. But campfire smoke, barbecue smoke, or the smoke from your home’s fireplace can all contribute to your allergies, too. It’s a good idea to stay away from smoky areas when at all possible.

Smog and ozone

Ozone is a mixture of air pollutants (like volatile organic compounds) and nitrogen oxides that combine with sunlight. Up high in the stratosphere, ozone protects us from the sun’s UV rays. However, when ozone is closer to the Earth’s surface, it’s considered a harmful pollutant. Smog is made up of ground-level ozone that mixed with other gases, as well as particle pollution. Both are incredibly bad for your health.

For someone with moderate respiratory allergies, exposure to ozone or smog for even a short amount of time can cause coughing, chest irritation, and even difficulty breathing.

How to deal with moderate respiratory allergies

  • Wash your hands with soap and water — Especially if you spend time outdoors or pet animals who have been outside, washing your hands will rinse away pollen and dander.
  • Check pollen counts — You can use this pollen count tracker from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology to see when pollen counts are high in your area. When they are high, consider staying indoors and turning on the air conditioning.
  • Check for mold often — It’s a good idea to inspect your home every now and again to make sure no new mold has grown. If you do see mold, make sure to remove it right away.
  • Keep your windows closed during high pollen and mold seasons — Keeping your car and home windows closed can minimize the amount of pollen you’re exposed to and help lessen the severity of your symptoms.
  • Keep air circulating — You probably shouldn’t open your windows but it’s always a good idea to keep air circulating through your house with fans. This can help break up stagnant, humid air making it less hospitable to dust mites.
  • Take anti-inflammatory or antihistamine medications — These are available over-the-counter without a prescription and can help keep your moderate allergy symptoms from becoming more severe. Keep some on hand, just in case.
  • Wear sunglasses — Especially on windy days, wearing shades will help keep pollen from getting into your eyes.
  • Prevent mold from growing in your home — There are many types of mold and you can be allergic to all of them. Prevention is the key here.
  • Rinse your nose — A simple saline solution can help clear your nose of any pollen, mold spores, or other allergens helping you avoid more severe and prolonged symptoms.
  • Keep pets out of your bedroom — You spend a lot of time sleeping, so pet dander on your bedding could make your symptoms much worse.
  • Wash your bedding regularly — Even if you don’t let your pets sleep in your room, keeping your linens, comforters, and pillows clean can drastically reduce the amount of pet dander and dust mites that touch your skin and enter your airways.
  • Wear a face mask when doing yard work — Annoying? Maybe so. But doing this can help prevent pollen and mold spores from getting into your nose and mouth. If you have moderate allergies, this could make a big difference in how you feel.
  • Take a shower after being out all day — When you have pollen, pet dander, smoke particles, or other allergens on your skin and hair, moderate allergies can kick into high gear. Showering when you get home can help alleviate a lot of symptoms.
  • Use an in-room air purifier — With moderate allergies, you really have to take extra steps to ensure that you’re staying healthy. In-room air purifiers are a great idea for your bedroom, as they remove all the pollutants from the air.
  • Vacuum your home — Make sure that you’re vacuuming at least once per week to remove any allergens that are hiding out in your carpet.

For the Severe Sufferers

Severe respiratory allergies are no joke and bother you all the time — and it’s no joke that you have them. Respiratory allergies this serious may not be life-threatening but they do have a major impact on your quality of life. While you are more likely to know what you’re allergic to when your allergy is this severe, it never hurts to have a better understanding of what’s causing them to flare up.

Hay fever

Hay fever, also known as a pollen allergy, can happen any time of year. While spring pollen allergies are certainly talked about more, summer and fall have their own special types of pollen that contribute to many people’s misery. Chances are high that if you’re allergic to spring pollen, you’ll also be allergic to ragweed, fall’s allergy star.

While meant for the fertilization of other plants, much of the pollen makes its way onto your clothes, pet, and car. If you are severely allergic to pollen, being exposed to even a small amount could be problematic for you.  Your best option: avoid the outdoors when pollen counts are high and do everything possible to keep them from being tracked into your home.

Mold

With severe respiratory allergies, it is possible that this condition is made worse by mold exposure. Unfortunately, mold fungus can thrive in all kinds damp places. You may be doing everything in your power to keep mold out of your home but you can’t control your exposure to mold spores outside, at friend’s houses, or in public buildings. Make sure you take some disposable face masks with you whenever you do yard work or go to a place where there could be a lot of mold.

Dust and dust mites

A microscopic pest called dust mites thrive on the dust found in places all over your home. Dust mites live best in high humidity and are usually worse in the summer. During the fall and winter when you turn your heating system on, you may find that dust mites are stirred up again and worse than before.

Being a severe allergy sufferer means that breathing in even a moderate amount dust or dust mites could cause your respiratory function to become impaired, your eyes to become irritated, or any other number of potentially bothersome symptoms. Keep your home dust free and when you clean, be sure to ventilate as much as possible.

Pet dander

When pet dander — the flakes of skin that your pet sheds — becomes airborne it settles around your home and all over you. That’s right — pet dander is lightweight and clings to shoes, clothes, and even hair. This means that you (and everyone else exposed to it) can track it everywhere.

A severe allergy to pet dander means you need to be on high alert about when and for how long you’re around animals. Breathing in an excess of pet dander could make it harder to breathe and feel comfortable. Check before going to a friend’s house or public area where there may be a lot of pets. If you have your own pets, be sure they are bathed often and keep them away from your sleeping areas.

Smoke

Generally, when we mention smoke, people think of being allergic to cigarette smoke. But campfire smoke, barbecue smoke, or the smoke from your home’s fireplace can all contribute to your allergies, too.  It’s a good idea to stay away from smoky areas entirely.

Smog and ozone

Ozone is a mixture of air pollutants (like volatile organic compounds) and nitrogen oxides that combine with sunlight. Up high in the stratosphere, ozone protects us from the sun’s UV rays. However, when ozone is closer to the Earth’s surface, it’s considered a harmful pollutant. Smog is made up of ground-level ozone that mixed with other gases, as well as particle pollution. Both are incredibly bad for your health.

For someone with severe allergies, exposure to ozone or smog for even a short amount of time can cause worsening symptoms that are very uncomfortable.  It’s smart to avoid being outdoors when it’s very hot or when the smog levels are high.

Symptoms of severe respiratory allergies:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Postnasal drip
  • Cough

How to treat severe allergies

The best course of action if you suffer from severe respiratory allergies is to see your doctor. Your physician can recommend further testing if necessary and help prescribe the most appropriate medications for your needs.  Of course, you can always take precautions to avoid potential allergens and prevent complications but nothing will restore your quality of life better than professional help.

Things That Can Make Your Allergy Better

At the very least, following these tips can make your respiratory allergies feel a little less overwhelming.

Visit your doctor

Whether you have mild, moderate, or severe respiratory allergies, seeing a doctor is one of the best things you can do for your health and quality of life. Primary care physicians can help you come up with a plan and recommend the best medications for you to prevent or treat your symptoms.

Use an indoor air purifier

Indoor air purifiers take all of the pollutants (allergens included) out of the air, making it so much easier for you to breathe. Consider investing in an indoor air purifier that destroys pollutants, instead of trapping them. This is one of the best investments you can make if you suffer from allergies.

Change your air filters regularly

The filter in your air conditioning unit collects dust, pollen, and pet dander. If not changed regularly, you’ll be setting these trapped allergens free over and over again. If you live in an apartment or are renting a home, check with your landlord — they may be responsible for replacing them. Homeowners, don’t skimp on this expense — clean filters make a huge impact on the quality of air in your home.

Keep the windows closed

Don’t let the nice weather fool you. If you’re allergic to mold or pollen, you’ll want to keep your car windows rolled up and your home windows closed even on sunny days. This will help keep the allergens out of your car and home, making it easier to control your exposure.

Take a shower after being out all day

If you have mild to moderate respiratory allergies and have been out all day or if you have severe allergies and do something outdoors for even just a couple hours, take a shower when you get home. Rinsing off all of the allergens you’ve accumulated on your skin and hair can go a long way in preventing a flare-up.

Avoid yard work, if possible

If you suffer from respiratory allergies, even a small amount of yard work can cause major issues. The mold, pollen, and ozone present while mowing the lawn is a lot for your immune system to handle. If you can avoid it, do so. If you can’t avoid yard work, at least wait until evening when it’s cooler (to limit exposure to ozone) and wear a disposable face mask (to avoid breathing in pollen, mold spores and other allergens).

Stay indoors during rainy or windy days

Mold spores love the wind and rain — it’s how they get from one place to another. If it’s very rainy or windy and if you have a known mold allergy, do your body a favor and stay inside as much as possible.

Keep mold at bay in your home

Mold can grow in all kinds of strange places. You can’t control how and where it occurs naturally outside but you can prevent and treat any mold growth in your home. You can use this guide to help with that.

Use a dehumidifier

Dust mites survive the best in humid weather. Mold also happens to need moisture to survive. When you lower the humidity levels, you also decrease the odds of either of these allergens staying alive.

Get dust mites and house dust under control

One of the first things a respiratory allergy sufferer should do is clean their house. Not a quick sweep but a deep clean — removing as much dust as possible. With the dust, you’ll remove pollen, pet dander, and mold spores. Just be sure to keep the area you’re cleaning well-ventilated.

Removing carpeting from your house

If you can, consider removing all of the carpeting from your house. This will significantly cut down on the allergens you’re exposed to and track into your home. If you can’t remove your carpets, be sure to vacuum 2 to 3 times a week, at a minimum.

Bathe your pets often

If you have pets, make sure they get bathed at least every few weeks. You can also brush them (or have them groomed at a pet center) to help remove any extra dander. It’s worth the hassle of getting your dog to stay still if it means not having to blow your nose every 5 minutes.

Rinse your nose, rinse your hands

Washing your hands is one of the best ways you can prevent worse respiratory allergies. Whether you go for a walk, pet a dog, spend time gardening, or just go to check the mail, washing with soap and water can help remove pollen and pet dander.

Your hands aren’t the only thing you should wash. Rinsing out your nose with a saline solution can help wash allergens out of your airways and help reduce your respiratory allergy symptoms.

We Feel Your Pain

Respiratory allergies are the worst. But, hey, at least you know just how bad yours are now. While ignorance can be bliss in many situations, dealing with allergies is not one of them. The more you know about what’s causing your symptoms, the more you can do to treat them.

So, tell us — how bad are your respiratory allergies? Is your result in-line with your expectations?

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