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Tips to manage your seasonal allergies

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The Pacific Northwest has some of the highest pollen counts in the U.S. This is especially true for alder trees and grasses. Even within Oregon’s cities, pollen counts can vary widely. They tend to be lower in places where there’s less vegetation, like Portland. In rural areas, pollen counts can be significantly higher. These are areas where there are more grasses, shrubs, and trees — especially evergreens.

Roughly 10%–30% of Oregonians suffer from allergies. It’s also common to develop them as an adult. Regardless of your age, here are tips to help reduce your allergies:

  • Watch the pollen counts — The amount of pollen in the air tends to be higher in the morning. It’s also high on hot, dry, and windy days. If possible, plan your time so you can avoid being outside when the pollen level is at its worst. Visit pollen.com or download the app to view the current count in your area.
  • Limit pollen on your face — Wear an N95 face mask while doing yardwork. Wear a hat when you’re outside. Also, wash your face more often to prevent pollen from sticking around your nose.
  • Rinse your sinuses — Use a neti pot, bulb syringe, or squeeze bottle to squirt warm saline solution into your nasal cavity when your symptoms flare up. It can help clear out your sinuses, so you feel less stuffed up.
  • Reduce pollen in your home — Keep your doors and windows closed. Leave your shoes at the door. Change your clothes when you get home. Shower before going to bed. Don’t let your pets sleep with you since they might carry pollen on their coats. Vacuum your home weekly. Wash your sheets once a week in hot soapy water. Also, use the dryer instead of a clothesline. 
  • Improve the air quality in your home — Consider buying an air purifier with a HEPA filter for your bedroom. If your home has an air conditioner, use a filter with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) of 11 or higher. These remove a higher percentage of allergens. 
Before you stock up on more tissues, know that OEBB’s medical and prescription drug plans may be able to help you manage your allergies. If you’re suffering, try using your benefits to enjoy a sniffle-free summer. 

New York Times, April 21, 2022
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/21/well/live/allergies-symptoms-season.html

What’s triggering your allergies?

An allergy is your immune system’s reaction to a foreign substance, called an allergen. Allergens can include something you eat, inhale, touch, or inject. Allergies can cause your body to respond in uncomfortable ways.

If you have allergies, you’re not alone. More than 50 million people in the U.S. have seasonal allergies each year. In fact, allergies are the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.1 Most people with allergies have more than one type.

Allergies come in many forms, such as:
  • Environmental (seasonal, mold, pets, pollen, ragweed, etc.)
  • Drug (penicillin or other antibiotics, aspirin, etc.)
  • Food (dairy, eggs, peanuts, shellfish, wheat, soy, fish, corn, etc.)
  • Insect (bees, wasps, hornets, etc.)
  • Latex (latex gloves, balloons, Band-Aids, etc.)
And allergies can affect different body parts. Seasonal allergies typically affect your nose and sinuses. Drug allergies often affect your skin or breathing. Food allergies generally affect your intestinal tract or can cause headaches. And insect and latex allergies often make it difficult to breathe.

Allergies can develop at any time in your life. It’s common for children to have allergies that they eventually outgrow. Some allergies — such as peanuts or shellfish — often last throughout a person’s life. In some areas of the country, adult-onset allergies are common. This is true in the Pacific Northwest.
 
The best way to manage your allergies is to stay away from whatever is triggering them. But that’s not always possible. With serious allergies, you simply must avoid exposure to the allergen completely (e.g., peanuts, latex, insect bites). You may also need to always carry life-saving medication with you. When avoiding the triggers isn’t possible, over-the-counter and prescription medications can help. However, they often come with side effects. 

If you’re suffering with allergies, OEBB’s benefits can help. Your medical plan offers benefits to identify what’s causing your symptoms. Start with your primary doctor. For more severe allergies, your primary doctor might refer you to a specialist. Click here to view your OEBB benefits for primary doctor and specialist visits.

You can also take medication or injections to help with allergies. If over-the-counter drugs aren’t enough, your OEBB prescription drug benefits offer coverage for certain allergy medications and injections. Click here to view your pharmacy benefits. You can visit your plan’s website to view the list of medications that are covered, which is called a formulary.

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Tap into the allergy library

If you are like a lot of people, you are allergic to something. For most people, allergies mean itchy eyes and a drippy nose. But for a few people, allergies to things like bee stings or nuts cause a whole-body reaction that can be life-threatening. Whether your allergies are dangerous or just annoying, the information in our Learning Center can help you cope. 

Get started learning more about allergies in topics such as: 
Kaiser Permanente, October 6, 2021

Should you go gluten-free?
It seems like gluten-free is all the rage these days. “Gluten free” labels appear all over grocery store shelves and restaurant menus. Is this the right choice for you?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It can cause severe intestinal inflammation in people with celiac disease. About 2% of the population has celiac disease. For those with gluten intolerance, it can cause stomach discomfort. 

For the rest of us, gluten is an important source of fiber. Avoiding it can be bad for your digestive health. In fact, many gluten-free products contain more fat, sugar, and/or salt than the regular versions. They can also contain less iron and folic acid, which are important in your diet. Just because a product is gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy.

If you must avoid gluten, be sure to eat other whole grains, such as amaranth, kasha, millet, and quinoa. Or fill your plate with high-fiber fruits and vegetables, like apples, mangos, peas, and broccoli. And be sure to read labels closely to make sure you’re not replacing gluten with fat, sugar, and salt.

Food allergy vs. food intolerance — what’s the difference?

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Physical reactions to certain foods are common. Most are the result of a food intolerance rather than a food allergy. Both can cause similar symptoms, so it’s easy to get them confused.

Food allergies cause your immune system to react. Even small amounts can cause hives, itchiness, diarrhea, vomiting, or life-threatening symptoms. On the other hand, food intolerances can cause less serious symptoms, like stomachaches, flushing, migraines, and headaches.
 
If you have a reaction to specific foods, it’s important to know whether it’s an allergy or intolerance, since the former can be deadly. Your doctor can perform tests to determine the exact diagnosis.

WW offers a variety of recipes to support any ingredient preferences. Anyone age 18 or older enrolled in an OEBB medical plan can sign up with WW at no cost to you. Visit OEBB.WW.com to learn more.

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