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October 2009 Newsletter

What is Hay Fever?

flower with bee allergy asthma

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis), is a common response to airborne allergens, with symptoms similar to the common cold: sneezing, runny nose, congestion, itchy nose and throat, headache, watery or itchy eyes, and sinus pressure. Despite its name, hay fever has nothing to do with increased body temperature. While colds are caused by viruses and usually last for a week to ten days, hay fever is triggered by allergens and affects people seasonally or even year-round, depending on their specific sensitivities. Allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander are continually present, while specific tree pollen, grasses and weeds, tend to come and go with the seasons.

What Can I Do?

For many people, the first symptoms of hay fever can be very depressing, since they often signify months of constant irritation and fatigue. While there are many medications you can take to suppress the symptoms, the healthiest way to prevent discomfort is to avoid the specific allergens that trigger your hay fever. Environmental control is an easy way to limit exposure. Wash your bedding and vacuum your house regularly to reduce dust mites and pet dander. Keep pets out of bedrooms and wash them regularly if they spend time outdoors. Open windows to increase circulation if the weather permits, but run your air purifier to trap the pollen and particles passing through.

Watch Where You Breathe!
Decreasing exposure to air pollution can add years to your life

Air pollution is a serious reality across the U.S., particularly in large cities where neighborhoods and schools border freeways, ports, and rail yards, and children grow up playing outside in smog-laden environments. In these areas, asthma and respiratory problems tend to come with the territory. According to the California Air Resources Board, diesel pollution from ships, trucks and trains contributes to an estimated 2,100 early deaths, 190,000 sick days for workers, and 360,000 school absences. A study by the BBC in London found that microscopic particles from traffic pollution can greatly reduce children’s lung capacity. Those raised in highly polluted areas end up with a physical disadvantage: lungs that have already been put to the test from a childhood spent breathing unhealthy air.

According to a study conducted by Douglas Dockery, a professor of Environmental Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Health, particulate air pollution can actually take years off your life. Dockery found that populations exposed to high levels of air pollution face increased daily mortality, increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits, exacerbation of asthma, increased respiratory symptoms and lower lung function. Elderly persons and children, whose respiratory systems are still developing, are at the highest risk for serious health problems related to toxic air contaminants. As stated by the California Air Resources Board, "Diesel engine emissions are responsible for the majority of California's known cancer risk from outdoor air pollutants." While Americans have control over certain health factors, poor air quality is something we are forced to live with. Besides living in neighborhoods that are sheltered from intense traffic pollution, the only way to improve the air you breathe is to control the quality of the air indoors, so that at least the time spent at home is healthy for your lungs.

For more stories on air quality:

"A new crop of eco-warriors take to their own streets," by Margot Roosevelt (LAT)

"Cancer risk from toxic air drops by 17% in Southland," by Janet Wilson (LAT)

"City Air Pollution Shortens Life," by Humphrey Hawksley (BBC)

Read more about air quality and your health on our website: Click here

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