11 weird things making seasonal allergies worse

PITTSBURGH — Allergy season is getting underway. This means the runny noses, watery eyes, sneezing and wheezing are not far behind.

There are several irritants than can trigger allergy symptoms. The most common are:

•    Pollen

•    Dust

•    Food

•    Insect stings

•    Animal dander

•    Mold

•    Medications

•    Latex

We’re nearly a month into spring and some pollen is already active across the Pittsburgh area. Some of the top allergens include juniper, elm and maple trees.



According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergies are among the most common chronic conditions worldwide. An allergic reaction typically triggers symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin.

For some, allergies can not only make people feel miserable but also trigger symptoms of asthma. In the most serious cases, a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis can occur.

We’ve come up with 11 things, you may not have thought of, that can trigger an allergic reaction.

Making Your Bed

Allergens aren’t just found outside your house. Pesky dust mites are taking up residence in your home. Those mites like to live in your bedding and mattresses and thrive on your body sweat and the skin it sheds. By making your bed each morning, it essentially tucks them in, keeping their home nice and warm.

By leaving your bed unmade, it allows your bed to air out and the sun to naturally dry out the sheets. In doing this, the mites have less of a chance for survival.


What’s the harm in a glass of wine or a pint of beer? For some people, it can mean a stuffed-up nose and occasionally, severe reactions. Drinking causes an irritation for some folks, just from the alcohol itself. The irritation can be blamed on the sulfites, found in beer and wine, especially reds.

A Danish study in Clinical & Experimental Allergy found that women who had more than 14 drinks a week were 78 percent more likely to develop a perpetually stuffy nose compared to women who drank less.

Changes in the Weather and Allergies

The weather is one thing many people tend to blame if their allergies are acting up. Even if you don’t have allergies, the changing seasons can still cause sinus pressure, congestion and a runny nose.

On dry, windy days, allergies are more likely to be worse. This is because those conditions are ideal for trees to release pollen into the air and the wind will help spread it around quickly, according to doctors at the Allergy and Immunology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

Rain can reduce the pollen count by washing pollen from the air, providing temporary relief. However, not all wet weather is helpful. Drizzly or light precipitation can stir up pollen in the air. In addition, rain in late fall or winter can increase tree pollination amounts, causing higher pollen levels. Increased rain in spring makes grass grow faster to produce more unwanted pollen.

A mild winter can indicate an early allergy season, since trees tend to start pollinating earlier. On the other hand, a late freeze can postpone tree pollination, producing lower pollen counts.

Cigarette Smoke

If you’ve been looking for another reason to quick smoking, you can now add allergy problems to the list. A study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology compared the effect that tobacco smoke had on individuals with and without a ragweed allergy.

Researchers found that certain allergen antibody levels were higher in people exposed to both secondhand smoke and ragweed than those exposed to ragweed and clean air.

Cigarettes can cause nonallergic rhinitis, or sneezing, congestion and coughing in people without a true allergy. In those with a seasonal reaction to pollen, smoke is an irritant that causes respiratory tract issues, making symptoms worse.

Perfume and Other Strong Odors (chlorine)

While you may think your perfume smells great, others may think otherwise. Just like cigarette smoke, strong odors can irritate the lining of the eyelids and nasal passages. Perfume, cologne, scented candles, nail polish, paint fumes and even holiday decorations can put off a strong smell, triggering nasal symptoms.

Chlorine is another trigger for those with allergies. It’s an irritating gas and if you can smell it, then it’s getting into your body. Indoor pools are the biggest culprit since the chlorine is contained in a smaller space.

Contact Lenses

Wearing contacts can be tough in general for some people, but allergy season can add even more problems. When the pollen counts get high, glasses may be the way to go. Contact lenses can trap pollen against the surface of your eye, making the already red and itchy eye, from the annoying allergies, even worse.

Soft contact lenses are more likely to absorb airborne irritants, like pollen or smoke, because they're permeable. Ophthalmologists say a soft lens lets more oxygen through but can absorb anything in the tears. If you insist on wearing contacts and don't like hard lenses, consider disposable ones to prevent pollen buildup.

Certain Fruits and Veggies

Have you ever had a piece of fruit or snacked on some veggies and then started sneezing? If so, you may have what’s called oral-allergy syndrome.

The problem is on the outside of the food. Proteins found on the surface of some raw produce can trigger a reaction, such as a cough and an itchy mouth or throat. Pollen and food proteins are somewhat related, so your body starts to think you’re swallow pollen.

Allergy sufferers are more likely to react to apples, bananas and melons, including honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelons and tomatoes. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America say zucchini, sunflower seeds, dandelions and chamomile tea may also pose problems.


Do these triggers make you stress out? Doctors suggest you chill out, or else the stress can lead to more sniffles!

In a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, those people who had higher levels of stress had more flare ups in the days following. By finding ways to relax, symptoms will be more bearable.

The Wrong Treatment/Medications

You’re coughing and sneezing and itching to find relief. So, you head to the medicine aisle at the store and just pick something that may help. However, you could be making matters worse.

Most medicines can be in either one of two categories: antihistamines and decongestants. The former helps with sneezing, itchiness and runny nose, while the latter battles congestion from swollen nasal passages. If you are unsure which it is you’re dealing with, it’s best to be evaluated by an allergist.

Your Pets

Dogs and cats are great to have around, but sometimes Spot causes you to sneeze while Sparky makes you sniffle. You may not be allergic to the dog or cat dander itself, but your furry friends can still cause a flare up by tracking the pollen indoors on their paws and fur. Doctors recommend wiping them off when they come back in the house.

Your Clothes/Bathing

You know that fuzzy sweater you wear numerous times before throwing it into the washer? It’s not helping your allergies. Dust and pollen cling to clothes – especially those that are made of rough or sticky fabrics. Washing those items daily, especially in hot water, will limit the number of allergens on your clothes.

It’s important to note that pollen doesn’t just stick to your clothes. They can be found on your skin and in your hair too. If you wake up with a stuffy nose in the morning, take a shower before you go to bed to wash always the allergens. It will also help keep those pesky pollens out of your bed.