Your Secret Allergy Triggers Revealed
Lemons and limes
Limonene, a zesty compound in lime and other citrus fruits, gives many people watery eyes and a burning sensation in the nose, according to James Wedner, MD, chief of allergy and immunology at the Washington University School of Medicine. It might even irritate your skin, whether you touch, eat, or drink products containing limonene.
What to do: If you get a rash, treat it with topical hydrocortisone creams used for bug bites and poison ivy. And natch, skip the lemon or lime wedge with your drink or salad, and look out for lime in salad dressings, desserts, and marinades (it’s used in numerous dishes).
Stuffed anything (even Teddy)
What to do: Wash, dry, then repeatand use very hot water. “Toys should be washed at 140°, which will ensure that the mites are killed,” Dr. Randolph says. After they’re clean, store them on a shelf, not on the bed. What to do with the nonwashable toys? Every two to three weeks, put them in a plastic bag in the freezer for a couple of hours, which will also kill the mites.
What to do: If you’re very sensitive, avoid candles altogether. But if you love the smell and want to use them at home, buy candles that have few ingredients and feature just one scent, like pumpkin. By a process of elimination, you may be able to pinpoint which scent or ingredient bothers you. If you have a bad reaction to a scented candle, getting some fresh air should make you feel better.
What to do: Kindly ask your colleagues to go easy on their favorite fragrances, and bring a portable fan to keep your area as scent-free as possible. Stick with body creams and moisturizers that have light scents. These are less likely to irritate you.
Soaps and detergents
What to do: Buy organic or specially marked soaps; look for “no additives,” “nonscented,” or “phthalate-free” on the label. Phthalates are chemicals that help improve texture, but they’ve been linked to allergic reactions; products that contain them may have “diethyl phthalate” or something similar on the label. Dove, Tide, and Ivory all offer low-irritant products, as do many organic brands.
What to do: Remove wall-to-wall carpetingwho doesn’t like a beautiful wood floor?and use small rugs that can be washed in hot water monthly. “And keep the humidity below 50%” with your central air system or a dehumidifier, Dr. Randolph says. “Dust mites thrive in humidity.”
What to do: Avoid the spices more likely to cause trouble: coriander, poppy seeds, pepper, dill, paprika, cumin, and saffronwhich, in broad strokes, means Indian and Middle Eastern food. If you’re not sure which spices bother you, record what you’ve been exposed to each time you have symptoms and look for the common denominator.
What to do: Keep windows open as often as possible and allow fresh air to circulate for four weeks after painting, no matter what kind of paint you use. If possible, use latex paint, which emits less gas than oil-based kinds due to its water base. What about paint with low levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds)? They spew fewer chemicals into the air and are less smelly than regular paints. But that doesn’t mean they won’t bother you. To find these paints, look for the “Green Seal” certification mark on the label.
Beer and alcohol
What to do: Stick with grain-free liquors like potato vodka, rum (made from sugar), and tequila (the agave plant). Skip all flavored liquers. And if sulfite preservatives in wine bother you, red wine tends to have fewer preservatives than white. Also, look for wine labeled “sulfite-free” (it won’t stay fresh for long). Remember that anything with carbonation (like a wine cooler) increases the likelihood of an allergic reaction, Dr. Tichenor adds.
Blue jeans buttons
What to do: Take your pants to a tailor and have her replace the nickel buttons with plastic ones (another metal might also cause irritation). A second option: Coat the button with clear nail polish, a remedy found to be effective in a recent St. Louis University study. Just be aware that nail polish itself may lead to a rash if you’re sensitive to it.
What to do: Try a fake tree. Can’t live without a real one? Ask when it was cut down before you buy it; trees that were cut weeks in advance are already ripe with mold. Then, starve it of water and keep it for as short a period as possible. Mold grows on houseplants, too, so keep them on the dry side.