If you sneeze, wheeze or break out in a rash while working in your garden, jogging along a wooded trail or cleaning out your garage, you’re not alone. More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Why some people react to pollens, grasses, household dust and other triggers while others breeze by unscathed stems from a complex mix of individual genetics, physiology and past exposures to common allergens.
Understandably, many allergy sufferers just want relief—fast. You might reach for antihistamines or other pharmaceutical remedies the second your symptoms arise, without giving much thought to what’s causing your reaction in the first place. But according to Sean Zager, M.D., an integrative medicine physician at the Institute for Health and Healing in Marin, identifying the root cause of your allergies is key, as it can help steer the appropriate course of action.
Plus, beyond pinpointing the offending allergen, many different factors—from geographic location to home environment to stress levels—can influence the severity of your symptoms. Understanding how these pieces add up can help guide an individualized, effective approach to allergy relief. That may mean simply avoiding your allergen as much as possible, taking medications to control your symptoms, trying drug-free integrative-medicine approaches or, as is often the case, combining a few of these tactics.