TIME Diet/Nutrition

More Than 8,600 Cases of Ranch Dressing Recalled

The bottles were found to contain a different dressing

Thousands of cases of Wish-Bone Ranch Salad Dressing have been voluntarily recalled after a consumer found a bottle contained a different dressing than labeled, which includes an ingredient not declared on the bottle.

Pinnacle Foods Group LLC said in a statement, posted to the FDA’s website, that the bottle of ranch accidentally contained Wish-Bone Blue Cheese Dressing, which includes eggs and could pose a problem for people who have allergies. Pinnacle said it had not yet received reports of illnesses from the product.

A total of 8,678 cases of the 24 oz. dressings are involved in the recall; they were produced by a contract manufacturer in April with a Best Used date of Feb. 17, 2016. Customers who have bought the recalled product can return it for a full refund.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

7 Things You Never Knew Were In Your Wine

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Low-alcohol wines are lighter in calories

Sulfites, tannins, resveratrol—if you’ve read anything about wine, you’ve probably come across at least one of these terms. But what does all the fancy verbiage mean for your health? We asked Jim Harbertson, PhD, associate professor of enology (that is, the science of wine) at Washington State University, to decode the lingo commonly found on bottle labels so you know exactly what you’re drinking, and how it affects you, beyond a nice buzz.


What it means:Sulfites are normally added to wine to protect it from oxidation or unwanted microbial growth,” Harbertson says. In other words, they keep wine fresh and prevent it from morphing into vinegar. Sulfites have developed a bad rap for causing allergic reactions like sneezing and headaches, but in reality, only a small portion of the population exhibits a sensitivity or allergy to them. There’s also some indication that they trigger symptoms for asthmatics, but the relationship between worsened asthma symptoms and sulfites isn’t totally clear, Harbertson says. You’ll spot “contains sulfites” on wine bottles because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that labeling when any food contains more than 10 parts per million of sulfites, but for most people, they’re nothing to worry about. Know for sure you’re allergic? Look for the words “sulfite-free” on labels.


What it means: The nitrogen-based compound is a common allergen found in foods and can cause an inflammatory response. (It’s also, confusingly, the name for a substance our bodies release when they’re having an allergic reaction.) Histamines sometimes crop up in wines that undergo a second fermentation to smooth out their acidity and texture, Harbertson explains. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to tell which wines undergo this process and which don’t without checking with the winemaker, though some bottles are now labeled as not undergoing malolactic fermentation, meaning they should be histamine-free, Harbertson says). The good news: “There really isn’t any definitive research that demonstrates that the histamines in wine cause human health problems,” Harbertson says.


What it means: You know that dry feeling you get on your tongue after sipping certain kinds of vino? That astringent sensation is caused by tannins, a type of polyphenol that get produced during the winemaking process, mostly from grapes. While these micronutrients may be disease-fighting when consumed in certain forms and foods, when imbibed in wine, “these natural compounds tend to get bound up in salivary proteins and proteins in the human digestive system, so their health benefits are somewhat limited,” Harbertson says. Tannins are most often found in big, full-bodied red wines—look for labels bearing the names Bordeaux, Shiraz, Barolo, or Barbaresco.


What it means: You may have seen this buzzy antioxidant, found in the skin of grapes listed on the packaging of beauty serums and creams touting its anti-aging properties. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a wine label doing the same. “Based on current studies, it’s not clear that there’s a health benefit [of drinking it] because the resveratrol concentration in wine is low,” Harbertson says. Want to try to load up on resveratrol, just in case? Know that there’s likely a higher concentration of it in red wines versus white. But that’s still no reason to drink more than the recommended one glass a day.

Heavy metals

What it means: Okay, this one’s not listed on any label, but you might have heard about these being linked to wine anyway. Heavy metals are metals and metal compounds that can adversely affect our health when consumed in the right (or wrong, as the case may be) doses. A study published in the Chemistry Central Journal indicated that some wines have showed concerning levels of heavy metals such as copper and manganese. However, according to Harbertson, “the FDA has been monitoring heavy metals in wine and has indicated that concentrations are lower than would require regulation.” Cheers to that!

Organic and biodynamic

What they mean: Organic winemakers refrain from using pesticides and other chemicals in their growing and production methods, and they don’t add sulfites as preservatives. Biodynamic vintners start with these same organic practices, but they also consider the whole ecosystem of the vineyard in growing their grapes, including more obscure factors such as lunar cycles. While Harbertson says he’s all for producing wine that’s environmentally sustainable, he also notes, “there’s not enough information at this point on the human health impacts of biodynamic and organic grapes and wine” to say that the practice is actually good for us.


What it means: This hot phrase has been all over wine labels lately. The benefits of low-alcohol wine include getting less drunk with each glass, lower cost per bottle, and a lighter taste. It’s lighter on calories, too: Though the relationship between booze and calorie intake is complex—“alcohol is not converted to energy like other things you consume and, therefore, doesn’t get stored as other calories will,” says Harbertson—alcohol is the primary source of calories in wine, so low-alcohol wine will have fewer of them than bottles with a higher content.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Research

The Connection Between Peanut Allergies and Asthma

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New study suggests benefit from testing kids with asthma for peanut allergies

A new study suggests that kids with asthma may have a peanut allergy, or be sensitive to peanuts, and not know it.

Dr. Robert Cohn, medical director of Pulmonary Medicine at Dayton Children’s Hospital and his team studied 1,517 children who went to a pulmonary clinic at Mercy Children’s Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, for respiratory problems and left with a confirmed diagnosis of asthma. Interestingly, among these children, about 11% knew they had a peanut allergy. Many of the children in the study came back to the clinic and had a blood test to screen them for peanut allergies, and of that group, 22% tested positive.

The researchers then found that more than half of the 22% of kids who came back positive did not suspect that they had any allergy or sensitivity to peanuts, suggesting it may be something that those who work with children with asthma may want to be more cognizant of.

“I don’t think children with peanut allergies would be misdiagnosed with asthma. It is most likely the other way around. Children with asthma might not be recognized as having a peanut sensitivity,” says Cohn in an email to TIME. “Parents of children with asthma should understand that there may be asthma medicines that are not advised in children with peanut allergies.”

Cohn says that since allergies can act as a trigger for an allergy attack, it may be useful for a child to be screened for peanut sensitivity if they have been diagnosed with asthma, especially if they have an uncontrolled cough or wheezing.

The study will be presented Sunday at the ATS 2015 International Conference.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

You Asked: Do I Have a Gluten Allergy?

You Asked: Do I Have a Food Allergy?
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

What you eat could be the cause of your headaches, joint pain, sluggishness or dozens of other ailments. Or maybe not.

People tend to conflate the terms allergy, intolerance, and sensitivity when they talk about food-related reactions, and especially gluten. The first two refer to well-understood digestive disorders with predictable symptoms, says Dr. Robert A. Wood, division chief of allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins.

If you have a true allergy, your immune system produces antibodies designed to protect you from something it sees as a threat—be it nuts or shellfish. Even a little nibble can cause cramping or stomach pain, a runny nose, skin rashes, or swelling and breathing issues, Wood says.

An intolerance is an inability to properly digest or absorb specific foods or nutrients, often due to a lack of one or more digestive enzymes. (For example, people who are lactose intolerant don’t have the enzymes required to break down lactose.) This inability can lead to gastrointestinal problems like stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea. Wood says food intolerances, unlike allergies, tend to be “dose dependent”—meaning the more of the food you eat, the worse you feel.

Take gluten, a type of protein found in grains like wheat, rye and barley. When it comes to gluten-related health concerns, says Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, roughly 1% of the population has celiac disease—a condition that causes a sufferer’s immune system to attack the small intestine whenever gluten is present. A smaller percentage of people, maybe 0.5%, have a related wheat allergy. “We can verify each of these through blood tests and screening,” Fasano adds. Blood tests are the first step in identifying the underlying condition; to get a definitive diagnosis, a gut biopsy is usually required. For people with these conditions, cutting gluten or wheat is an absolute necessity.

But unlike allergies and intolerances, food sensitivities occupy a gray zone. Like an allergy, they may be related to immune reactions. But they’re poorly understood and symptoms are hard to pin down, says Fasano. “If you believe reports, a food sensitivity could cause a stomachache one time, then a headache, then joint pain or even cognitive problems,” Fasano says.

Because the mechanisms underlying sensitivities aren’t known, Fasano says there’s no way to test and validate them. That ambiguity has led to a lot of confusion and disagreement among researchers, while creating ideal conditions for spurious health “experts” to push food elimination diets that may do more harm than good, he says.

Eliminating gluten is the most common (and some would say trendy) example of this, Fasano says. Some estimates suggest a third of Americans are trying to avoid or altogether ditch gluten. “There’s this misconception that gluten-free foods are healthier or somehow linked to weight loss,” Fasano says. “But for most people, going gluten-free probably will not be beneficial.”

There may be another category of people who suffer from a sensitivity to wheat or gluten. Some popular books have suggested, in the words of Grain Brain author David Perlmutter, that gluten “represents one of the greatest and most under-recognized health threats to humanity.” But there’s not much data to support such claims. Fasano says what data there is point to stomach or abdominal pain as the most common symptom of gluten sensitivity, followed by skin conditions like eczema. While foggy thinking and fatigue are tied to gluten, there’s no agreed-on explanation for these symptoms, Fasano says.

Aside from celiac disease, Johns Hopkins’s Wood says that the medical science community is so convinced gluten isn’t a major health issue that there’s very little funding or interest in studying the subject further. “I think the bulk of people avoiding gluten are avoiding it unnecessarily,” he says. “Most doctors or people who’ve looked into it think it’s more of a lifestyle choice than a valid health issue.”

And when people claim to feel healthier after ditching wheat or gluten? “Lots of junk foods and snack foods contain gluten,” Fasano says. Some estimates show one-third of all grocery store items contain gluten—many of them the additive-stuffed, overly processed packaged foods nutritionists would love for you to eighty-six from your diet. “If you cut out those things, of course you’ll feel better,” Fasano says. “But it’s not because your body has a problem with gluten.”

While he doesn’t believe gluten is the health villain many have made it out to be, Fasano says food-related reactions are common, from gastrointestinal issues like stomachaches or cramps to non-GI issues like headache and joint pain. Fruit, beans, alcohol and many other common foods have been linked to symptoms of allergy or intolerance.

If you feel certain foods, including gluten or wheat, may be triggering pain or another type of physical reaction, Fasano recommends visiting a gastroenterologist or an expert dietitian—someone who can help you identify the source of your problem without putting you at risk for a nutritional deficiency.

“You wouldn’t take antibiotics or insulin without seeing a doctor first,” he says, “and you should take the same precautions when it comes to making changes to your diet.”

MONEY Health Care

How to Survive This Awful Allergy Season

pollen written on windshield covered in pollen
Joseph De Sciose—Getty Images/Aurora Creative

Lingering winter cold means pollen levels could rise quickly—and so could your medical costs.

Grab your tissue box. We’re in for a terrible spring allergy season. Experts say that the long winter may cause early-blooming trees to pollinate late this year, which means more trees pollinating at the same time.

About one in five Americans suffer from some kind of allergy, with seasonal allergies the most common, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. While not as severe as food and insect allergies, hay fever can put a real damper on your life—seasonal allergies are responsible for some 4 million missed or lost workdays every year, the National Academy on an Aging Society estimates.

The upside is that if you take your allergies seriously this year, you might feel better and save money. True story: My entire childhood, I had “seasonal” allergies that lasted almost year-round. (For some reason, no one thought this was weird.) As an adult, I finally got tested. I was allergic to my cat. Part of me wishes I didn’t know that, but I don’t have to buy as much Claritin now.

Here’s what allergies could cost you—and how you can save.

Over-the-counter antihistamines: 10¢ to 67¢ a pill

With hay fever, you can burn money on boxes upon boxes of over-the-counter allergy relief like Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec. But you can save a ton if you just compare prices online, says Elizabeth Davis, editor-in-chief of GoodRx blog, a prescription savings blog.

“One thing that tends to be worthwhile is going for the non-name brand version,” Davis says. “It looks like you can get [generic Claritin] for as low as $10 for 100 tablets, but I’m generally seeing about $20 or so for a regular box of brand-name Claritin, which has 30 tablets.”

So shop online, save 85%.

Another medication to consider: nasal spray. Nasacort and Flonase were both recently approved for over-the-counter sale, where they cost between $17 and $25 a bottle, Davis says.

Prescription antihistamines: 50¢ to $1.60 a pill

Sometimes, over-the-counter medications won’t be enough to alleviate your symptoms. If you’re still suffering, or if you find yourself relying on Benadryl on a daily basis, it’s time to see an allergist.

While prescription allergy meds are usually more expensive—as low as $15 but as much as $40 or $50 for 30 tablets, Davis estimates—what you pay will depend on your health plan. Doctor visits, tests, and prescriptions are typically covered by health insurance, with a co-payment or co-insurance, after you meet your deductible.

The higher dosages in prescription meds might be what you need to kick your symptoms. A doctor might double, triple, or even quadruple your dose, or advise you to take a combination of antihistamines and decongestants, says Neil Kao, an allergist in Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.

“When you go the doctor, you might say, ‘Well, I took Claritin, and it didn’t work,'” Kao says. “The doctor might say you need two—one in the morning, one at night. You might say, ‘The box says one.’ Well, that’s why I went to medical school!”

Also, while prescription generic Nasacort nasal spray costs more—typically $50 to $75 a bottle—and prescription generic Flonase costs less—usually $12 to $17—the prescription versions could be a better deal than over-the-counter versions if you have a low co-pay, Davis says. Talk to your doctor and check your plan.

Allergy testing: $30 to $275

Once you’ve spent serious money on allergy medicine, you may want to know if you’re on the right track, Kao says. Are you sneezing because there’s pollen in the air, or because you have a cold, or because your cat is shedding his winter coat? With a simple skin test, an allergist can determine what, if anything, you are allergic to.

According to HealthSparq, a health costs transparency firm, an office visit with an allergist typically runs $200 to $300 before insurance. Those estimates are based on insurer-negotiated prices on claims filed in Oregon, Washington, Utah, and Idaho.

From there, the cost of the allergy tests can vary from $30 to $275, and even as high as $4,000, depending on the type and number of tests given, according to HealthSparq. Pro tip: 77% of large employers offer a price transparency tool, according to Mercer, so you can get your own individualized price estimate.

Immunotherapy: $15 to $20 a session

After you know what you’re allergic to, allergy shots are another treatment option. Here’s how it works: Your allergist uses a skin test to decide which allergens to put in your shots, which slowly expose you to your allergens to get your immune tolerance back up to normal, Kao explains.

Kao recommends shots for sufferers with moderate to severe allergies who either do not get enough relief from medications or who do not want to take medications any longer. “Statistically, [shots] help about 90% of well-selected people,” Kao says.

HealthSparq estimates that it typically costs $15 to $20 a visit before insurance kicks in, but could be as high as $170 a visit, depending on your course of treatment.

However, Kao says that in the long term, allergy shots pay for themselves. Think of the money you won’t be spending on over-the-counter medications, prescriptions, antibiotics for sinus infections, and doctor’s visits. “That’s all money saved,” Kao says.

EpiPens: $450 to $500 for a two-pack

Pollen means something else for people with bee sting allergies: It’s time to carry an EpiPen again. EpiPens—or epipnephrine auto-injectors—provide immediate relief to anyone suffering from anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction. The pen is inserted into the middle of the thigh while a patient awaits professional medical attention.

Unfortunately, the price of EpiPens have increased significantly in the past several years. Davis of GoodRX Blog estimates a two-pack could run about $450 to $500 before insurance.

Coupons can help. At EpiPen.com you can apply for discounted epinephrine pens. Many patients with private health insurance can get the EpiPen two-pack for free, and everyone else can get $100 off, says Davis.

Alternately, you can get a generic epinephrine pen for $250 to $300, but you’ll need to ask your doctor to write a prescription specifically for the generic, Davis says.

Update: This article was updated to indicate the correct use of an EpiPen.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Go ahead and start a new career in your fifties. It’s easier than you think.

By Donna Rosato in Money

2. This is what sex-ed would look like if it took place entirely on social media.

By Kate Hakala in Mic

3. Here’s why the FDA doesn’t really know what’s in our food.

By Erin Quinn and Chris Young at the Center for Public Integrity

4. What critical resource helps the sharing economy make billions? People trusting people.

By the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor

5. Could a continent-wide CDC for Africa stop the next Ebola outbreak?

By Jim Burress at National Public Radio

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Healthcare

10 Home Remedies for Allergies

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Shower immediately after spending time in the garden

Spring brings warmer weather and longer days, while the autumn ushers in crisp air and pumpkin-spice lattes. But these seasonal changes aren’t welcomed by everyone. For many of us, they’re eclipsed by the itchy eyes, sneezing, and congestion of hay fever and other allergies. What to do?

Some allergies are severe and require the attention of a doctor or other health care professional. For milder cases, though, home remedies may provide all the relief you need, with relatively little expense or hassle. Even people with bad allergies who need medication may find these at-home tips helpful for easing symptoms.

Neti pots

They may look exotic, but Neti pots are fast becoming a mainstream remedy for allergies and stuffed-up sinuses. The treatment, which involves rinsing your nasal cavity with a saline solution, flushes out allergens (like pollen) and loosens mucus.

Using a Neti pot is simple. First, fill the pot with a mixture of salt and warm water (you can buy pre-measured kits or make your own). Then tilt your head to the side and pour the solution in one nostril until it flows out the other, repeating the process on the opposite side. (Important note: Use boiled or distilled water only, as tap water can introduce potentially dangerous organisms into your system.)

Saline spray

Prepackaged saline nasal sprays function much like Neti pots, but some allergy sufferers may find them easier to use. Sprays deliver saline solution a bit more gently and evenly, whereas pots can sometimes be a little “sloppy,” says Robert Graham, MD, an internist and integrative medicine specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.

Saline sprays should provide comparable results. Although Neti pots have been studied more extensively, and in some cases may prove more effective, sprays too have been shown to help with allergy symptoms and other sinus problems.

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

Local honey

Eating honey produced by bees in your region can help relieve allergies. The bees transfer pollen from flower blossoms to honey, so if you eat a little honey every day you’ll gradually become inoculated against the irritating effects of pollen.

That’s the widely held theory, anyway. Unfortunately, there’s little to no scientific evidence to back it up. Although a small 2011 study from Finland that compared regular honey and pollen-laced honey did report modestly encouraging results, an earlier study in the United States found that unaltered local honey had no impact on allergy symptoms.

HEPA filters

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters ease symptoms by trapping allergens and other airborne irritants, such as pet dander and dust. Portable air cleaners equipped with HEPA filters can purify the air in bedrooms and other confined spaces, but whole-house systems that incorporate HEPA filters into your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system are generally more effective.

Air conditioners and dehumidifiers also can help clean air, Dr. Graham says. They remove moisture from the air and floor, which will curb the growth of the mold and mildew that can worsen allergies.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

Herbs and supplements

Several herbs and supplements—including spirulina, eyebright, and goldenseal—have been studied for allergy relief. The plant extract butterbur, which is thought to reduce airway inflammation, has produced what are perhaps the strongest results. In a pair of clinical trials led by a Swiss research team, butterbur tablets eased symptoms just as much as the over-the-counter antihistamines fexofenadine and cetirizine, respectively.

For his part, Dr. Graham suggests his patients first try bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple that is sometimes used to curb inflammation after sinus surgery. “It reduces swelling and improves breathing,” he says. “It’s a safe first step.”


Anyone who has even been stuffed-up knows the impressive ability of a steaming hot shower to soothe sinuses and clear nasal passages, if only temporarily. But showers offer an added benefit for springtime allergy sufferers. A quick rinse after spending time outdoors can help remove allergens from your skin and hair—and prevent them from spreading to clothes, furniture, pillowcases, and other surfaces where they’re likely to dog you.

This is especially true if you’ve been gardening. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends stripping off your shoes and clothes and showering immediately if you’ve been weeding, pruning, or planting.

Read more: 15 Diseases Doctors Often Get Wrong


Don’t feel like getting soaked and toweling off every time your sinuses get clogged? Other methods of inhaling steam—store-bought vaporizers, for instance—can flush out mucus and moisten dry nasal passages nearly as well as a shower.

The easiest method is simply to pour boiling water into a bowl or other container, drape a towel over your head to form a tent, and inhale deeply through your nose for five to 10 minutes. (Just be careful not to get your face too close to the water, as you may scald yourself.) If you find yourself really clogged up, this may be more convenient than taking several showers a day.

Eucalyptus oil

The strong, piney aroma of eucalyptus oil can supercharge steam inhalation, helping to open your sinuses and nasal passages further. Some research suggests the essential oil, extracted from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, but if nothing else the vapor provides a bracing, menthol-like sensation that can make breathing seem easier.

Try adding a few drops of oil to a bowl of steaming water, or to the floor of the shower before you step in. Just don’t swallow the oil or apply it directly to your skin; it’s toxic in concentrated amounts.

Spicy foods

Many people swear by the sinus-clearing effects of spicy foods like chili peppers, wasabi, Dijon mustard, fresh garlic, and horseradish. Sure enough, an active ingredient in garlic (allyl thiosulfinate) and a similar ingredient in wasabi (isothiocyanates) do appear to have a temporary decongestant effect.

Foods with a kick can definitely start your eyes watering and open your nasal passages, but it’s unclear whether they provide anything more than fleeting relief.

Read more: 11 Unexpected Spring Allergy Triggers


Holding your face over a hot cup of tea may open your nasal passages, but the steam isn’t the only thing that’s beneficial. The menthol in peppermint tea, for instance, seems to work as a decongestant and expectorant, meaning it can break up mucus and help clear it out of your nose and throat.

Similarly, green tea contains a compound (methylated epigallocatechin gallate) that has been shown in lab tests to have antioxidant properties that inhibit allergic reactions. These results may not necessarily translate into noticeable symptom relief for spring allergy sufferers, however.

If you do have spring allergies, you’ll probably want to stay away from chamomile, as it can cause reactions in people allergic to ragweed.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Healthcare

25 Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

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Put your printer away from your desk

The air inside our homes can be two to five times as polluted as the air outside—bad news, especially for the more than 20 percent of us who suffer from allergies. And research suggests that that percentage is increasing steadily. “For one thing, climate change and rising carbon dioxide levels have created an environment that’s more hospitable to the growth of allergens such as mold,” says Jay Portnoy, MD, director of allergy, asthma and immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. “What’s more, we’re living in cleaner indoor environments these days, so our immune systems go into overdrive when we’re exposed to something unfamiliar, like dust mites or fur.” That’s guaranteed torment for a lot of us, who have spent most of the last few months indoors. The goods news is there’s a lot you can do to eliminate them.

Beat mold in the bathroom

Install a ventilation fan; run it during every bath and shower to reduce mold-friendly moisture. At the very least, leave the bathroom door ajar or crack open a window. Mold also thrives in damp corners, so once a week, wipe around the sink, tub and toilet.

Toss the plug-in room air freshener

Some emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can exacerbate respiratory problems. VOCs have also been shown to cause headaches in susceptible people.

Ditch the vinyl

These types of shower curtains emit VOCs, as well as other potentially lung-irritating compounds, like phthalates. A nylon curtain, which can be thrown into the wash as needed, is a better choice for your health and the environment.

Keep it covered

Put dust mite-proof covers, ideally microfiber ones, on mattresses, box springs, comforters and pillows. They’ll prevent the critters from penetrating your bedding. Wash your sheets once a week in hot water (aim for at least 130 degrees), then throw them in the dryer at a high temperature.

Declare a pet-free zone

A 2011 study found that cat owners who banned the felines from their bedrooms were much less likely to develop kitty allergies.

Read more: Your 12 Worst Allergy Mistakes

Sleuth out drips

Even a small trickle from the pipes under the sink can lead to mold.

For people with asthma who have a certain gene variant, living in a home with mold may increase the risk of a severe attack, according to a 2010 Harvard Medical School Study.

Clean well

Inspect your fridge for moisture, and when you clean it, pay close attention to door gaskets and drip pans, where mold tends to grow.

Fan out fumes

Install an exhaust fan over the stove, with vents that lead outside, to get rid of irritating cooking fumes and reduce moisture around the room.

In addition to triggering allergies, cooking fumes—particularly those from gas stoves—may up your cancer risk. The fumes have been found to contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heterocyclic amines, higher and mutated aldehydes, and fine and ultrafine particles. Having an exhaust fan reduces your risk.

Store food safely

Well-sealed plastic or glass containers should discourage roaches and mice from making themselves at home.

Choose washable window coverings

Opt for curtains or shades that you can wipe down, launder or send to the dry cleaner. Or skip them entirely!

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

Spruce up your seating

Consider a couch made from leather: It’s less likely to harbor allergens. If you want to hang on to your upholstered one, run a HEPA vacuum over it at least weekly.

Invest in a vacuum

Look for one that has a HEPA filter and a certification mark from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. This means it not only removes a significant amount of allergens but also prevents them from leaking back out into the air.

Check your temp

Keep the digits below 68 degrees; dust mites thrive in toastier conditions. Use a hygrometer (about $10 at drugstores) to measure in-home humidity, too. The sweet spot: 35 to 50 percent. Anything lower will dry out nasal passages; anything higher encourages mold. (Another reason to keep your thermostat set at 68: Keeping your home too cozy-warm can lead to weight gain. It’s one of the 10 ways your house is making you fat.)

Dust smarter

Do it (at least) once a week to remove allergens from surfaces. Use a microfiber cloth or dusting wand—the superthin fibers trap more debris than regular towels or dusters.

Use a filter for forced air systems

Your best bet: a pleated filter that has a MERV (i.e., effectiveness) rating of between 8 and 12. You can have it installed in your system directly. If you’ve got baseboard heat, you may want to purchase a few portable HEPA filter units (they cost $100 and up) and place them around the house. You probably don’t need to get your air ducts professionally cleaned—research doesn’t prove that doing so improves air quality, and it can actually make things worse by stirring up allergens and other particulates. Replace your filters regularly, based on the manufacturer’s instructions.

Read more: A Sleep Meditation for a Restful Night

Box it up

Clutter is a dust-magnet, not to mention bugs, mold, and mice. Recycle old newspapers, magazines, cans, and grocery bags every week, and for everything else, store as many items as possible in plastic bins to minimize dust.

Look for leaks

Repair any water damage that can encourage mold growth. Even if you have mold only in your basement, your heating or cooling system can pump it into other parts of your house.

Degrime your gutters

Reducing allergen exposure outside may reduce your allergy symptoms inside by keeping your body from getting overloaded with irritants. Remove dead leaves near the foundation and gutters; they lead to dampness, which fosters mold.

Wash your kids’ stuffed animals

Your kids’ stuffed animals are a magnet for dust mites. Keep only two or three on your little one’s bed; put the rest in plastic containers. Wash them at least once a month. Or just put them in a hot dryer for 20 minutes to zap mites.

Take shoes off outside

Your shoes pick up allergens from outside (hello, pollen and leaf mold!) and bring them indoors. Buy an outdoor mat so you can rub your soles free of debris before walking inside, or take off your shoes and leave them by the front door.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

Fish tanks

Nemo may be one of the few pets that are hypoallergenic, but the tank he’s frolicking in is an incubator of mold. Give the tank and filters a good scrubbing at least once a month.

Don’t overwater your plants

While certain houseplants (chrysanthemums, for example) reduce indoor air pollutants, you can have too much of a good thing. “If you don’t clear out debris, the soil can harbor mold,” Dr. Portnoy says. Limit the number of indoor plants and be sure you don’t overwater them.

Put your printer away from your desk

Studies have shown that laser printers emit VOCs and particles that are associated with asthma and can harm the lungs. Keep yours in a well-ventilated area at least 10 feet away from your desk.

Go green to get clean

To eliminate allergens, you need to scrub. Problem is, some cleaners can make symptoms worse. “Many have quaternary ammonium compounds, or quats, and bleach, which are asthmagens,” says Johanna Congleton, PhD, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in Washington, D.C. In fact, one study of more than 3,500 people found that those who used spray cleaners at least once a week had a 30 to 50 percent increased risk of asthma. Check out EWG’s guide to green, lung-friendly products at ewg.org/guides/cleaners.

The top indoor allergens

First up: Dust mites.

More than 25 percent of us are allergic to these tiny bugs that live in dust. The critters munch on skin particles and dander, so you’ll find them wherever there are people and pets. You’re not allergic to the mites themselves but to a protein they excrete. The mites’ waste can hang out on pillows and mattresses or in carpeting and not bother you, but when you disturb them—say, by fluffing your duvet—they’ll fly into the air and trigger symptoms.

Household pets

Cat allergy is the most common pet allergy, but at least 15 percent of us are allergic to both cats and dogs. It’s not their fur per se that has you sneezing but their dander, saliva and pee.

Roaches and rodents

Up to 98 percent of urban homes have these allergens, even if they can’t be seen. Apartment dwellers may find themselves battling roaches, and suburban and country home owners may face rodent infestations. As with your furry friends, you’re allergic to their feces and saliva, not just to the critters themselves.


You’ve probably heard of toxic black mold (aka Stachybotrys chartarum), but many kinds of indoor mold can cause allergies. While it tends to grow in dark, damp spots, this allergen can sprout up anywhere that water has leaked. The best way to tell if you have mold is to see it (it’s usually black, brown or green) and smell it (it’s got a musty odor). Get rid of mold by scrubbing with a solution of 1/2 cup of bleach and 1 gallon of water.

Read more: 15 Diseases Doctors Often Get Wrong

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Healthcare

11 Unexpected Spring Allergy Triggers

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Avoiding flowers and trees will only get you so far during allergy season

Stay away from pollen. Pop antihistamines. You know the drill. But if you’re one of the approximately 20% of people who suffer from hay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis) in all of its stuffy, sneezing infamy, fending off seasonal allergies might not be so straightforward. To breathe easy this season, you’ll also need to fight these 11 unexpected allergy triggers.


The farmer’s market can strengthen your immune system, but it could also send that system into a frenzy. Why? When tree, grass, and weed pollen counts are high, your immune system is primed to attack anything that resembles your allergens even slightly, says Anju Peters, MD, associate professor of medicine in allergy and immunology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Case in point: fruit pollen. In those who suffer from pollen-food allergy syndrome, filling your mouth and stomach with fruit pollen can worsen allergies.

Fight it: “Symptoms of pollen-food allergy syndrome typically occur when you eat fruit—including its peel—in its raw form, Dr. Peters says. “So by peeling or cooking fruit, you can lessen or completely avoid any reaction.”


People with hay fever, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and COPD are far more likely to experience sneezing, a runny nose, and lower-airway symptoms after imbibing, per Swedish research. Alcohol dilates the nose’s blood vessels and may also spur an immune response. Wine might be a bigger culprit than other booze, Dr. Peters says.

Fight it: Drink responsibly. That means limiting your consumption of alcohol, especially wine, and never mixing alcohol and allergy meds, she says.

Read more: Your 12 Worst Allergy Mistakes


Stress won’t cause allergies, but it can worsen your symptoms. Research from The Ohio State University Medical Center shows that just a small amount of stress increases the body’s levels of allergy-triggering proteins as well as its allergic symptoms. Plus, regularly high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can compromise your immune system, wear you down, and make it difficult for your body to recuperate from the season’s onslaught of allergens, Dr. Peters says.

Fight it: Use your allergies as another excuse to enjoy some “me” time. Take care of yourself and do whatever you’ve got to do to de-stress: meditate, practice yoga, soak in the tub.

Hair products

The perfect ‘do comes at a cost. “Hair gels and pastes cause the hair to become a pollen magnet,” says Clifford Bassett, MD, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York and associate professor of clinical medicine at New York University.

Fight it: Use as few hair products as your hairstyle will allow, Dr. Bassett advises. If you just can’t get by without your full arsenal of gels, sprays, and serums, make sure to wash your hair every day to remove the tag-along allergens from your locks.

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired


April showers bring May flowers…and “thunderstorm asthma” attacks. While gentle drizzles can decrease pollen counts, thunderstorms actually stir up pollen, which can easily rupture and spread through the air as tiny particles, according to research in Allergy. In fact, thunderstorms are linked with a greater incidence of asthma-related hospitalizations, Dr. Bassett says.

Fight it: This one’s pretty easy: Stay inside during and immediately following rough weather, and keep your windows shut.

Rising humidity

April showers bring may flowers—and a whole lot of humidity, something dust mites love. Dust mites—tiny bugs that live within house dust year-round—can cause sneezing, itchy nose, runny eyes, and other symptoms similar to seasonal allergies. So allowing dust mites to reproduce in your home will compound any seasonal allergy symptoms you’re already experiencing.

Fight it: Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels between 40 and 45% to prevent dust mites from reproducing. And if possible, keep the thermostat set below 68.

Over-watered houseplants

Ridding your home of mold is about more than good hygiene. Overwatering your houseplants (here are the 10 healthiest) can cause mold and mildew to grow in their soil, which can then spur indoor allergies and even worsen outdoor ones, Dr. Bassett says.

Fight it: If you typically water your plants by trial and error, search online to find out how much water each one really needs. You might also benefit from adding a couple of air cleaning plant varieties to your décor. Research from Pennsylvania State University shows that the snake plant, spider plant, and golden pothos can all help improve indoor air quality.

Read more: 25 Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

Ceiling fans

Indoor air could be worse for your allergies than outdoor air. After all, inside, you not only have your indoor allergens to contend with, but also the outdoor allergens that are likely making their way into your home, says James Sublett, MD, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Running your ceiling fans just swirls all of those allergens around.

Fight it: Run the A/C to cool off. If you just can’t get by without running your ceiling fans, make sure your home—and ceiling fan blades—are thoroughly cleaned before you flip the switch.

Morning showers

If your nose is particularly stuffed each morning, you should consider bathing at night before bed instead. Going to bed swaddled in the pollen and mold that your clothing, skin, and hair picked up throughout the day may be the problem, Dr. Bassett says.

Fight it: If you can’t function in the morning until you’ve had your shower, that’s OK. Just make sure you at least wash your face at night, giving your eye area some special attention. Washing your hair at night would also be ideal.

Spring cleaning

Isn’t spring cleaning supposed to scrub your house of dirt? “It can also dramatically increase exposure to allergens found in normally settled ‘house dust,’ which contains dust mites, cockroach and mouse allergens, furry pet allergens, and mold spores,” Sublett says.

Fight it: Try to get someone else (think: your husband, kids, or house cleaner) to deep clean your home when you’re not there. If that doesn’t work, a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is a great investment.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

Your dog

Just because you aren’t allergic to your pet doesn’t he they won’t make you sneeze and sniffle. After being outside, your dog can bring pollen, mold, and other allergens into your home.

Fight it: Give your pup regular baths, and avoid allowing him hang out on your bed.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Healthcare

20 Ways to Stop Allergies

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From dust mites to pet dander, here's how to tackle annoying allergens

It’s like a scene from a low-budget horror flick: the trees are blooming, the grass is growing…and runny-nosed zombies are invading the planet! Seasonal allergies are here, but if you’re one of the sniffly multitudes, you may have noticed that the “allergy season” can span most of the year (and that symptoms may flare right before your period).

Here’s your best defense—from least to most invasive, medically speaking. Try the first few and you may not need to hit the pharmacy at all.

Tree pollens, grasses, and weeds

Your symptoms surfaced as early as February, when trees started blooming. Right now, it’s grasses that are making you miserable (they will through late summer). Weeds will keep you wheezing through fall.

1. Police pollen

Click on the National Allergy Bureau’s website for a daily ranking of allergens, including seasonal tree pollens, grasses, weeds, and outdoor molds. Stay indoors when levels are high or very high for those that you’re sensitive to.

2. Wear a mask

If you must finish that gardening before the in-laws show up, don a not-so-chic but très useful N95 filter mask ($17 for 20; drugstore.com), which keeps pollen out of your nose and mouth.

3. Wash your hair at night

Rinse the pollen out, especially if you’re a gel or mousse fan. These products can trap pollen.

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

4. Soak up the calm

In one study, seasonal allergy (hay fever) sufferers had a more extreme reaction the day after performing a stressful task, such as giving a speech.

“Stress raises levels of the hormone cortisol,” says Clifford Bassett, MD, an allergist at New York University Medical Center, and that often leads to an amped-up allergic response.

A few minutes of meditation or a soak in the tub should help.

5. Keep your nose clean

“Your nose is like a car windshield—pollen sticks to it,” says Neil Kao, MD, an allergist at the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center, in Greenville, S.C.

Try a saline sinus rinse (amazon.com), found at any drugstore.

If that doesn’t do it, buy the nonprescription herbal nasal spray NasalCrom (cromolyn sodium), which helps prevent allergic reactions in your nose.

6. Take an antihistamine

There have never been more over-the-counter antihistamine options.

You may be able to find relief with 10 milligrams of cetirizine (Zyrtec) once a day.

If those don’t work, ask your doctor for a prescription antihistamine such as fexofanadine (Allegra, but also available as a generic) or levocetirizine dihydrochloride (Xyzal).

7. Try the sprays

If nasal washes and antihistamines don’t work for you, up the ante with a prescription steroid spray like Flonase, but you can skip decongestants; Dr. Kao says they don’t work for allergies and may worsen your congestion after several days of use.

Read more: 25 Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

Dust mites

Dust mites thrive in homes that are warmer than 70 degrees and have a humidity above 50 percent. Here’s how to beat them.

8. Cool (and dry) it Keeping your home temp in the mid to low 60s and the humidity between 40% and 45% should send them packing.

Buy a home hygrometer ($10; amazon.com) to measure humidity levels.

9. Use barriers

To fight dust mites, look for mattress and pillow encasements at stores like Target, as well as online retailers like AllergyBuyersClub.com; costs range from $50 to $150 for bedding made from organic cotton.

10. Boil your bedding

Not literally, but you should wash your sheets and pillowcases weekly in water that’s at least 140 degrees; a study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that this temperature wiped out all dust mites.

11. Outsource housekeeping

This won’t take much arm-twisting, will it?

Vacuuming and sweeping stir up dust mites and their droppings, which can take more than two hours to settle.

If you can’t hire someone else to clean your house while you’re away, invest in a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, like the Eureka Boss SmartVac ($150; target.com)—and wear a trusty filter mask.

Read more: 11 Unexpected Spring Allergy Triggers

12. Try acupuncture

At least one study and lots of anecdotal evidence suggest it can help.

“I’ve seen amazing results in my allergic patients,” says Roberta Lee, MD, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at the Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City.

She thinks acupuncture may decrease stress hormones, which can reduce inflammation. A session usually costs $100 to $150; ask your insurance company if some or all of that is covered.

13. Indoor mold

Mold thrives in warmer, more humid weather. Don’t assume it’s not there just because you can’t see it: Mold can hide under carpets, in walls, or anywhere. Here’s how to beat it.

14. Bleach it

A 5% bleach solution and a rag or sponge can zap small mold problems.

If you’ve got a very large moldy area (more than 10 square feet), consider hiring a mold-cleanup crew. Find one at the Indoor Air Quality Association.

15. Dry up rooms

Put an exhaust fan in bathrooms and laundry rooms, and a dehumidifier in unfinished basements.

Read more: A Sleep Meditation for a Restful Night

16. Get HEPA

Filters, that is. Ideally, you want a central air-conditioning system with a HEPA filter attached.

If you don’t have central air, try free-standing air cleaners in key rooms such as the bedroom.

Change the filters at least every three months and have your heating and air-conditioning units inspected (and cleaned, if necessary) every six.

Pet dander

If you’re set off by pets, you may be allergic to proteins found in the animal’s saliva, dander (dead skin flakes), and urine. And all furry pets carry these proteins; studies suggest hypoallergenic cats and dogs can cause just as many symptoms as the regular kind. Here are better steps you can take if you can’t bear to part with Rover or Frisky.

17. Ban him from the bedroom

Just keeping pets out (or better yet, away from your upstairs entirely) can help relieve your symptoms.

18. Cut the rug

Consider replacing wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors, tile, or linoleum, which won’t trap dander.

19. Get him groomed

Your pet that is. Ask your nonallergic partner or child to comb him every day, preferably outside, with a comb dipped in distilled water, which traps dander.

And a weekly bath (more often will dry his skin, making the dander problem worse) is a must.

20. Get shot

Immunotherapy has about an 85% effectiveness rate in decreasing allergic symptoms, including those triggered by animal proteins.

You get one to two weekly shots to expose you to very small doses of the allergen, and the dose is gradually increased over about six months.

You’ll need maintenance shots about once a month for three to five years.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

Could it be something else?

Do you have a runny, stuffy nose that just won’t quit? If dust-proofing your house and taking antihistamines don’t make you feel better, you may have a condition called chronic nonallergic rhinitis, a swelling of your nasal lining and passages that leaves you congested and drippy.

“Unlike your usual allergies, you don’t have an itchy nose, eyes, or throat, and you don’t respond to allergy medications,” explains Dr. Bassett.

Try eliminating irritants like strong odors (think perfume or household cleaners). Saline nasal sprays and rinses often bring relief, but if they don’t work, ask your doctor for a steroid nasal spray.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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