If I can't change my environment I must change myself.
January 31, 2009 5:16 PM   Subscribe

If you were once susceptible to mold and other air quality issues but have since strengthened your immunity how did you do it?

I take allergy shots which are noted to be not that great for mold, I take antihistamines when I feel like I am really being hit hard but they seem to have little effect, and apparently nasal corticosteroids are another one that can help which I have started taking recently anyway for a separate matter.
I noticed that I started working out a few years back and I stopped catching colds on a bi-yearly basis. I directly attribute the exercise to strengthening my immune system against virus catching. Anything for allergen resistance?
posted by dino terror to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I know this isn't going to be a practical suggestion for you, but my seasonal allergies disappeared when I left Canada to live in Japan for a year... totally different native plant life, so I wasn't sensitive to the allergens. My asthma disappeared too. But when I came back, so did the allergies.

If the mold's because you live in a humid place, maybe trying a vacation in a dry place would be good to see if you can experience some relief.
posted by lizbunny at 6:11 PM on January 31, 2009

Try moving.

I still experienced hay fever when I moved to Japan from Canada, usually in April and May, and in September, all months when grasses are pollinating. I also developed asthma at the age of 32 living in Japan. It had been a cool, wet summer, when the temperature spiked to the high 30s. I had really bad hay fever that September, thanks to the surplus of plant life that benefited from the rain and the heat. Suddenly, the temperature dropped from 40 degree to less that 20 in one night, and I had developed asthma.

Relocating to Canada several years later, I still had hayfever. I was living in a rural area, with the chief cash crop being... hay for horses. My hayfever was so severe that I started taking prescription-strength antihistamines. Several years later again we moved into town, and I have not had hayfever in two years, which is amazing.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is environmental. I also used to develop severe and long-lasting colds each winter, probably because our house was heated with a forced air system. Forced air is dry, hot and dirty, perfect for spreading colds.

Now we live in a new apartment building that uses electric baseboard heat. I never get colds now.

But in regards to hayfever, moving into a more urban environment (but with superb air quality) has helped out. It really depends what you are allergic to. My father is allergic to naturally occuring molds in Autumn, while some people are allergic to trees.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:36 PM on January 31, 2009

Your allergic response *is* an immune response. Strengthening your immunity, were it to even be possible in such a specific sense, would seem like a bad idea.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:53 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Allergy shots, moving, and a tonsillectomy worked for me.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:01 PM on January 31, 2009

Seconding the suggestions to move. The only times I get sick are when I live in a place with forced air heat. I can't deal with it for whatever reason.
posted by fshgrl at 9:30 PM on January 31, 2009

It's interesting how people who have allergic reactions think they have a "weaker" immune system (previous AskMe example). Allergy sufferers have strong immune systems, albeit slightly dysregulated* ones. Indeed, anti-histamines and corticosteriods suppress immune function.

* Because while you want your body to fight viruses, it should never even begin a response to allergens such as dust or mold.

Unfortunately, there aren't so many things you can do except, as other have noted, change your environment to reduce exposure. There are also allergy desensitisation therapies around, which you might want to discuss with your doctor.
posted by kisch mokusch at 10:47 PM on January 31, 2009

This doesn't really answer your question but I'm really allergic to a couple types of mold and the allergy shots did help. I'd also heard they weren't that good for mold but I was pretty desperate at the time and willing to try anything to feel better.
The other thing that helps is a supplement called Quercitin. It's a flavonoids found in many foods and is pretty safe. I've tried most of the allergy medicines out there and would choose this over most of them. I had a bad reaction to the steroid nose sprays so I can't say one way or another if Quercitin is any better.
If you want to try it, most health food store carry it but it's cheaper for me to buy from amazon. Watch out for the ones with mega doses of vitamin C. The manufacturers have started mixing them together because it's suppose to increase effectiveness but it bothers me.
posted by stray thoughts at 12:01 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm asthmatic and allergic to more or less every kind of plant, dust, mold, mildew, cats, dogs, etc. I've been getting allergy shots for 17 years.

I think for some of us there is no answer. In my case, even moving doesn't help; sure, I get better for six months or so, but then I develop allergies to whatever plant life is in my new area. By the end of college, it was just as bad there as it was at home.

Anyway, seconding the "strengthening your immune system won't help for allergies." The whole problem with allergies is that one's immune system flips out and kills people over things that aren't germs and are, in fact, harmless. It's actually kind of sad; my wife and I are both more or less constantly vaguely ill. In her case, it's because her immune system just sort of lies around and gestures limply at incoming viruses and bacteria, whereas in my case it's because my immune system is a crazed hillbilly sitting on the porch with a shotgun, shouting about "the varmints! The varmints is tryin' to steal ma' tobaccy agin! I'll show 'em!" *KA-BLAM*

Now, if you're having chronic sinus infections due to the constant irritation brought on by allergies, I can recommend:

- Saline washing (i.e. a Neti pot
- Cleaning the house religiously (vacuuming, washing sheets, etc.)
- In extreme cases, there's a surgery process in which they basically go in with a dremel tool and roto-rooter your sinuses open wider. I had this done, and now even on bad days I can still breath a little through my nose, whereas I could hardly ever do that before.
posted by Scattercat at 12:39 AM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Acupuncture and traditional chinese medicine helped me stop having allergic reactions during hayfever season.

I never had allergies but about five years after moving to Austin they hit me like a brick and stayed for months. Four or five years after that I started acu treatments and a year later, more or less, I stopped having allergic reactions to plant life. I remained in Austin for a long time after that and they just never bothered me.

You may be thinking - wow! A year of acupuncture treatments, that sounds expensive! I was treating other stuff as well, just rebalancing myself all over. It's sure as hell cheaper than moving out of the area.
posted by pomegranate at 4:07 AM on February 1, 2009

Response by poster: That's a good point about a strong immune system leading to strong allergy reactions. I'll have to delve deeper into the science of immune response to allergies...
posted by dino terror at 2:06 PM on February 1, 2009

I've started eating more whole grains, local produce and daily doses of omega-3's and my allergies have subsided since then.
posted by saxamo at 5:25 PM on February 2, 2009

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