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How allergies relate to your daily work commute

Monday, October 15, 2018, 1:41 PM - When their annual bout with seasonal allergies comes calling, sufferers can do a lot to keep allergens out of the house, but they may have forgotten about what, to many, is their second home: Their vehicle.

And if they take advantage of nicer weather by cracking a window during their morning commute, they’re exposing themselves to a hefty dose of the exact same allergens they’ve struggled to keep out of where they live and sleep.

“We usually tell people who are commuting in cars ... to shut their windows and to have the air conditioner on,” says Prof. Susan Waserman of McMaster University’s Division of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. “Otherwise it’s a steady stream of air at high velocity, and you’re going to have a lot of pollen exposure.”

Waserman says for best results, set your AC to recirculate air within the vehicle, rather than drawing it in from the outside.

Image courtesy of Getty Images.

It’s not a bad idea to keep your vehicle’s interior as uncluttered as possible, either. Pollen settling on surfaces likely wouldn’t be viable for a whole summer, but it’s best to wipe them down from time to time nonetheless, to minimize exposure, along with vacuuming regularly and avoiding moisture buildup that can encourage the growth of mould.

“You’ve got to maintain everything, really, to keep mould to a minimum,” Waserman says.

If public transit is the preferred method of commute, sufferers will have relatively little control of the condition of the air within the train or subway car, but that doesn’t make them helpless.

As with most other aspects of the season, Waserman says sufferers can be proactive in keeping ahead of their symptoms. Knowing what they’re allergic to will help sufferers know when to expect high pollen counts, as tree, grass and ragweed allergies have their own relatively defined seasons, and there are numerous pollen-monitoring tools that are easily available on the internet.

Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Once they know what to expect, premedication before and during the season can take the edge off the symptoms, easing their commute.

“I would recommend that even if you weren’t travelling anywhere, frankly,” Waserman says. “The fact is, you have to know what your season is, and make sure that, you know, you’ve started your antihistamines and nasal steroids in advance.”

For those seeking a more permanent solution to their ongoing allergies, a trip to an allergist could put them on the path to resistance, either with allergy shots, or sublingual tablets, depending on the allergy.

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