For more than three decades, I’ve reported on the latest in health, fitness and medical breakthroughs. I can’t think of a better “beat” for a reporter in southern California – with one tiny exception.
From Atkins and South Beach to Jenny Craig and the “Zone,” literally hundreds of diet plans over the years have promised to help people lose weight.
Bottom line? When it comes to weight loss, there is no magic diet. The secret to losing weight is no secret at all. Eat less and move more. Period.
That also goes for the temptation to categorize foods as either “good” or “bad".
In February, we “busted” five popular myths about nutrition and dieting. Now, with a little help from the American Dietetic Association, (ADA) we’ll blow up five more diet myths and find the honest-to-goodness truth about how to keep your weight and health under control. Here we go!
Myth: To eat less sodium, avoid salty-tasting foods and use sea salt in place of table salt.
Reality: Your sense of taste doesn’t always notice sodium and sea salt or other gourmet salts aren’t any healthier than table salt. According to the ADA, just because it doesn’t taste salty doesn’t mean it isn’t salty. Many processed foods contain a lot of sodium, so check the label.
As for sea salt? It does contain slightly less sodium per teaspoon than table salt only because sea salt is coarser, so fewer grains fit into the teaspoon!
Myth: Drinking more water daily will help you lose weight.
Reality: There is no evidence that water peels off pounds. Foods containing water such as soup can fill you up, but the ADA’s Dr. Christine Rosenbloom says just drinking water alone doesn’t have the same impact. “Our thirst mechanism and our hunger mechanism are two different things.”
Myth: Whole grains are always healthier than refined grains.
Reality: Whole grains are a healthy choice, but you don’t need to ditch refined grains. You can have some of each. “You don’t have to replace all your foods with whole grains,” says Dr. Rosenbloom. Enriched grains, refined grains with certain nutrients added, have some perks. “Enriched grains generally are going to have more folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron. The whole grains usually have more fiber, vitamin E, selenium, zinc and potassium, so it’s a trade-off.”
Myth: Sugar causes behavioral problems in kids.
Reality: You might want to check your expectations about sugar and children’s behavior. “For most children,” says Dr. Rosenbloom, “the excitement kids have supposedly from consuming sugar is probably more related to the excitement of the event than to eating sugar.” She cites research showing that when parents think their kids have been given sugar, they rate the children’s behavior as more hyperactive…even when no sugar is eaten.
Myth: Protein is the most important nutrient for athletes.
Reality: It is true that athletes need more protein than sedentary people. They just don’t need as much as they think. And they probably don’t need it from supplements…they’re probably getting enough from their food. But timing matters. Rosenbloom recommends that after weight training, athletes consume a little protein, about 8 grams (the amount in a small carton of low-fat chocolate milk) to help their muscles rebuild. "You just don’t need four scoops of whey powder to get what you need.”
New diet myths can crop up at any time…fads come and go. Determining nutrition myth from reality really boils down to this: Step back, check out the evidence and be a bit skeptical.
The true approach to good health isn’t scare tactics from the barrage of media reports. It’s simply an overall healthy eating pattern enjoyed and followed over time.
True or false: You’ll get fat if you eat at night; high fructose corn syrup makes you gain weight; and caffeine is bad for you.
As a health and fitness reporter over the last three decades, the correct answers to these dietary dilemmas could go either way depending on the most recent study. As a reporter and consumer, I find that frustrating.
Well, there may finally be some clarity when it comes to caffeine, carbs, salt, fat and other nutrition and food myths – compliments of the American Dietetic Association. At their recent annual meeting in Chicago, food experts gathered from around the world to separate the science from the silliness issuing the truth behind 10 common diet myths.
In this writing, we’ll bust five diet myths….
Myth: Eating at night makes you fat.
Reality: Calories count whenever you eat them. The American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Dr. Christine Rosenbloom notes some small studies with mixed results, tests on animals and a belief that because eating breakfast is linked to lower BMI… eating at night isn’t as good. But the science isn’t there. All in all, it’s your calorie total that matters – day or night.
Myth: Avoid foods with a high glycemic index.
Reality: You could use the glycemic index to adjust your food choices, but don’t make it your sole strategy for losing weight or controlling blood sugar. According to the ADA, for those people who are already counting carbs, this can be a way for them to fine-tune their food choices, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all for weight loss.
Myth: High fructose corn syrup causes weight gain.
Reality: This may sound sacrilegious to some, but there’s probably nothing particularly evil about high fructose corn syrup compared to regular old sugar. This diet myth arose in 2003 when researchers noticed that obesity was rising, along with the use of high fructose corn syrup. The speculation was maybe we handle high fructose corn syrup differently than we do sugar, but there’s no evidence to support that. Beyond its calories, the American Medical Association recently concluded that high fructose corn syrup doesn’t contribute to obesity.
Myth: Caffeine is unhealthy.
Reality: The ADA’s Dr. Rosenbloom says there is some evidence that caffeine may have a positive effect on some diseases including gout and Parkinson’s disease…besides caffeine’s famous alertness buzz. Also, caffeine does not dehydrate people who consume it regularly another commonly held belief. However, Dr. Rosenbloom does caution that caffeine isn’t always listed on product labels and children who drink a lot of caffeinated energy drinks may intake more caffeine than their parents expect. “Kids tend to guzzle these things,” she warns, “whereas an adult may sip a beverage.”
Myth: The less fat you eat, the better.
Reality: For some people, counting fat grams can work for weight control, but it’s not the only way. The ADA reports that people with heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome may benefit from adding a little healthy fat – the monounsaturated kind and cutting back on carbs. But they shouldn’t increase their overall fat intake. Just swap saturated fat for unsaturated fat. Balance is key says Dr. Rosenbloom. “If you go to an Italian restaurant and have triple-cheese-meat-sausage lasagna then have a little olive oil on your bread, you’re not doing much for your heart.
Next month, we’ll examine five more nutrition myths. You can take it all with a grain of salt, but should it be table salt or sea salt? We’ll bust that myth, too.
My fondest memories of childhood revolve around swimming – winters indoors at the family “Y” and summers in the outdoor city pool through the Amateur Athletic Union age group swimming program.
Even more than the actual competition, I loved the workouts. Socially fun and physically challenging, I was blessed with coaches who worked hard to motivate my teammates and me to reach our full potential as young athletes.
One of the most fun and creative swim workouts I recall used a training technique called fartlek. (Now imagine poor Coach Meyers as he announced the next set would be “fartleks” to a bunch of immature 12-year-olds!)
Actually, when it comes to fitness, the funny-sounding word is nothing to snicker about. Fartlek, a Swedish term meaning “speed play,” is a form of interval or speed training that can be highly effective in improving speed and endurance.
Coach Meyers would blow the whistle and we’d swim 100 percent effort in short spurts. The next whistle meant slow and easy for a minute or so. We’d repeat the process until exhaustion set in. There’s no doubt, fartleks made me a faster swimmer. (And after all these years, it still makes me smile.)
Well guess what? Apparently, what’s old is new again. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, high intensity training tops the list of hot fitness trends for 2014. They no longer use the term, “fartlek,” but the principle remains.
The popular fitness routine has evolved and is now called high intensity impact training (HIIT)… still focusing on short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by short periods of rest. Fitness experts and devotees claim the technique yields twice the results in half the time.
Shannon Fable, with the San Diego-based American Council on Exercise, says the growing trend makes sense for fitness buffs with busy lives. She says HIIT is a regimen that meets needs in the time they have available.”
HIIT (fartlek!) workouts have been around for years, but thanks to intense workout programs such as CrossFit, P90X, Insanity, TurboFire and Tabata training, more and more fitness fanatics are turning to the practice to get fit.
But if all that intensity isn’t for you, no worries The list of trendy routines for 2014 includes everything from ancient yoga practices to new twists on personal training. Also scoring high in the New Year – fitness programs for older adults and children’s exercise programs.
So pick out a workout plan that sounds fun to you and let’s all get moving in 2014!
I ran into Don and Sheila the other day on the curb in front of our house. It was Monday…garbage day…as together we rolled our trash cans back into our respective garages. Actually, it was good to see our next-door neighbors. Tom and I hadn’t seen or heard from them for several days.
I quickly learned why as Sheila dressed in heavy sweats with a wool scarf around her neck warned me not to come any closer. Looking like the walking dead, she told me that she and Don had the flu and were so sick they hadn’t even left their house. Taking the trash to the curb was their first outing in days.
It broke my heart to see our friends in such misery. They admitted they hadn’t gotten the flu shot and vowed never to pass on it again.
Secretly, I applauded my own decision to get vaccinated. But it’s my pharmacist who deserves the credit for making that smart choice. As I quizzed him at my local pharmacy, he convinced me the flu shot is still the best way to avoid the miserable symptoms of the flu virus.
I remember using the line, “They never get the formula right anyway,” to justify skipping this year’s vaccination. If that’s your argument, then it may be time to roll up your sleeve. Turns out, a flu shot is effective even if its strains don’t match those going around!
That may sound crazy, but a Canadian review found in years the vaccine hadn’t targeted the viruses circulating, people still got protection that was more than 50 percent effective (when there was a match, protection rose to 65 percent or more).
Bottom line…from my pharmacist and primary care doctor to the Mayo Clinic and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.
Like all medications, vaccines can have side effects, but they’re extremely rare. For people with certain health conditions, getting the shot may not be advised. Obviously, if you have any concerns, check with your doctor before getting vaccinated.
Then, before you decide to skip this year’s flu shot…consider this. The vaccine can protect you from the ravages of the flu that wiped out our neighbors – a viral respiratory illness that spreads easily and can make your life miserable for weeks. Worst case? The flu can lead to serious health complications and possibly death. Why chance it?
It’s too late for Don and Sheila. Thankfully, they’re recovering nicely.
But there is still time for you to prevent the fever, chills and body aches that could have you down for the count this holiday season.
For a list of Palomar Health community flu shot clinics, go to www.PalomarHealth.org/flu.
When it comes to food, these days, it’s all about going organic. And that’s great. Count me in! But I must admit, navigating the maze of organic food labels, benefits and claims can be more confusing than an exercise in quantum physics!
Is it just me? I have a college degree but nowhere in my curriculum was there a course on “label language,” and much of it is simply indecipherable. Thank goodness, after decades of talk, the USDA’s National Organic Program has finally standardized the widely varying practices of an unregulated, grassroots movement. The program ensures all producers play by the same rules. What does that mean for you and me? Official, clear-cut definitions of “organic” and its many wannabes.
Here they are! (And if you lose this, not to worry. I’ve got the list posted on my fridge!)
100% Organic: All ingredients must be certified organic, and processing aids must be organic as well. The name of the certifying agent must be on the label, which may carry the USDA Organic seal.
Organic: Products must contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients. The remaining 5% (except salt and water), along with any nonorganic processing aids (such as chlorine to wash packaging equipment), must be from a national list of substance the USDA has approved for use in organics. The product may carry the USDA Organic seal.
Made with Organic: Packaging can’t include the USDA seal, but at least 70% of the product must be certified organic; nonagricultural ingredients must come from the national list. The quality of organic foods is high even at 70%, experts say.
Organic Ingredients: Below 70% organic, the product can’t claim on its packaging that it’s organic, except to list specific certified organic ingredients on the information panel.
Natural: The USDA says that meat, poultry and eggs labeled with this word must have no artificial ingredients and be minimally processed. But the term isn’t defined beyond those items. Assume “natural” means “conventional.”
Fair Trade: Nongovernment organizations certify that growers received minimum prices and community support from buyers and followed specific environmental practices. Standards are not as strict as for organic.
Free-range: Birds such as chickens are sheltered and have continuous access to the outdoors, along with unlimited access to food and water. However, these claims are not certified.
Cage-free: Birds can freely roam inside a building or room with unlimited access to food and fresh water. They’re without cages, but can still be packed very tightly, even when organic.
Grass-fed: Animals receive most of their nutrition from grass throughout their lives, but may also eat hay or grain indoors during winter. Animals may still receive antibiotics and hormones, according to the USDA.
No Added Hormones: Already true of organic, so its conventional producers that tend to use this term, but there’s no certification for these claims.
Whew! It’s still a lot of info…but at least these definitions are clear and should make buying organic a lot easier.
The caricature of a sexy woman adorned with a feather boa and six-inch eyelashes smiled at me from the front of the birthday card. “You’re still hot!” read the caption below the shapely cartoon lady’s stiletto heels. Smiling, I opened the card from my dear friend…only to read the bitter truth, “These days it just comes in flashes!”
Funny card. But for women who deal with the “flashes” of heat that strike with no warning, it’s no laughing matter.
Truth is, most women experience hot flashes at some point before or after menopause when their estrogen levels are declining. While some women are blessed with few to no flashes, others suffer the surges of internal heat numerous times a day causing miserable disruptions in sleep and daily living.
The late-summer heat just makes matters worse.
Summer can be a truly “hellish” time for women coping with hot flashes and night sweats. While comforted knowing my personal heat waves are not a sign of some medical problem, they’re still a royal pain – frustrating and often embarrassing as the tiny rivulets of sweat trickle from my hairline down the side of my face during a business meeting.
If you’re a woman tired of waking up in a pool of sweat every night or carrying around a portable fan all day, don’t despair. There are effective treatments that may either reduce or stop moderate to severe hot flashes including short-term, low-dose estrogen (hormone therapy), certain antidepressant and blood pressure medicines and the herb, black cohosh.
But for some of us, drugs and herbal therapy may not be an option. If you’ve had breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or are at risk for either, you may have been told you’ve just got to put up with the unwanted waves of heat. Like many of women, I take the anti-estrogen medication, Tamoixfen because of a bout with breast cancer. (Some women take a similar medication, Arimidex) so we’ve got to find another way to beat the heat of hot flashes.)
Avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and making sure to exercise and maintain a healthy diet are a great start…but if the heat’s still on, and hormone therapy isn’t right for you; check out these natural remedies that may just give you the big chill you crave!
A 2013 Mayo Clinic study showed that doing slow, deep, abdominal breathing reduces the number and severity of hot flashes. (This really helps me.) Take three or four slow breaths whenever you feel the heat coming on. The hot flash often will just fade away. Practicing calming meditation also helps. Scientists are finding that stress hormones aggravate menopausal symptoms.
Clary sage and Roman chamomile essential oils help balance mood swings, while peppermint can chill hot flashes. To make your own cooling mist (especially great for night sweats!), mix the following ingredients in a 4-oz. dark-glass spray bottle:
* 3 ounces distilled water
* 1 ounce witch hazel extract
* 8 drops each of peppermint, clary sage and Roman chamomile essential oils
Sip Some Sage
This is a fave for reducing flashes and night sweats. Because sage may have estrogen-like effects, avoid therapeutic amounts if you’ve had breast cancer or could be pregnant. To brew a cup of the delicious tea: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried. Steep, cover for 5 minutes and then strain. Add a little honey or lemon, if you’d like. Have a cup two or three times a day.
Here’s to a cool you!
As a kid, I did some pretty stupid things.
When I was six, I couldn’t resist the urge to sneak a taste of the dog’s kibble. (Not bad, actually!) In church one Sunday when I was eight, I stuck a rosary bead up my nose. It took a doctor to retrieve the foreign object that had travelled up my sinus cavity.
Fortunately, those acts of stupidity did no long-term damage. I wish I could say the same about the years I spent stupidly lying in the summer sun slathered in baby oil…working on the perfect tan.
Sometimes there are consequences for being stupid.
As I write this, I can’t help but catch a glimpse of the ugly scar on my forearm from recent surgery to remove a second squamous cell skin cancer from my body. That divot in my arm is a constant reminder of my stupid decision to ignore the experts and, for decades, repeatedly overexpose my skin to the sun’s harmful rays.
Sometimes, there are consequences for being stupid.
But I figure there’s no point beating myself up about it. I can’t go back. Now, all I can do is look forward and come up with strategies that will allow me to enjoy the great outdoors while protecting myself from future sun damage. As you might imagine, I don’t go anywhere these days without hats, sun-protective clothing and lots of sunscreen!
And guess what? My new game plan may do more than protect me from future cancers. The generous coat of sunscreen that’s now part of my daily routine may also help wipe out my wrinkles!
Dermatologists have been telling us for years that using sunscreen regularly can protect skin against aging. Now there’s research to back it up!
In a study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers demonstrated that people who applied sunscreen every day showed 24 percent less skin aging (as measured by lines and coarseness of the skin) than those who used regular moisturizers.
Sunscreen has long been touted as a way to stave off photo-aging, or changes to the skin cause by sun exposure. While it makes good sense, from a scientific point of view, most of the evidence has been anecdotal. There simply hasn’t been hard evidence in humans to support the claim.
Well, no more. The numbers are in and they don’t lie. Routine use of sunscreen saves skin. And if, like me as a foolish, young woman, you’re not motivated to slap on a little sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, then could I possibly appeal to your vanity?
As one study researcher explained, the results have “double significance,” since the reduced skin damage from UV rays also translates to a lower risk of skin cancer. It’s a win-win!
Have fun in the sun, but don’t risk the health and beauty of your skin for the few seconds it takes to slather on a little sun protection. Trust me, the consequences aren’t worth it.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.
My husband, Tom is a good-looking guy … just a little short in the hair department. “It’s not that I’m bald,” explains my sweet husband. “I’m follicly-challenged.” But Tom’s shiny pate proved to be a blessing in disguise. Because of his receding hairline, it was easy to discover a little “boo-boo” developing atop his head.
Typical guy, Tom put off getting it checked. But the scaly patch continued to grow until I finally insisted he see a dermatologist. I even made the appointment. Long story short, the biopsy found the little lesion was a form of basal cell carcinoma.
Thank God, the skin cancer was found early. Removed by a plastic surgeon nearly two years ago, today the scar is barely visible and Tom is cancer-free. I shudder to think what may have happened had he put off seeing a doctor.
It makes me wonder. Why are guys like Tom (who would never put off servicing his car!) so reluctant to take care of their own bodies? Listen guys, the odds are against you. American men live sicker and die younger than American women. Men also die earlier than women for all the leading causes of death. Why? According to the Men’s Health Network, women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual exams and preventive screenings than men!
But there’s an easy fix! Many diseases can be prevented or treated when symptoms are caught early. In fact, men’s top health threats, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, influenza and suicide, are mostly preventable.
In fact, men can start by following five simple recommended screenings:
Cholesterol: Have a cholesterol test at least every five years starting at age 35.
Blood Pressure: Check blood pressure at least every two years.
Colorectal Cancer: Begin regular screening at age 50.
Diabetes: Screen for diabetes if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Prostate Cancer: Men age 50 or older should discuss screening with their doctor.
Still not persuaded? Well, maybe guys need to be convinced that real men need health care. So, I checked in with one of San Diego’s most famous “real men” for his perspective. Known for his astute sports commentary, Billy Ray Smith co-hosts the popular “Scott and BR Show” with Scott Kaplan on San Diego’s XX 1090Sports Radio.
But the easy-going sports radio guy is probably best known as #54 … the all-pro NFL football star and one of the greatest San Diego Chargers of all time.
Throughout his NFL career, Billy Ray was the picture of health. Now, off the field (and 20 pounds lighter!), BR still makes his health a priority. Check out my Q&A to learn more.
Q&A with Billy Ray Smith
Carol: How did you stay in top form while playing with the Chargers?
BR: I learned from my Dad who also played in the NFL. I used to run with him … even went to the training facility with him.
Jessica Davis Photography
Carol: After 10 years, what made you decide to retire from football?
BR: Another lesson from my Dad. He played 13 years and had to have knee replacement surgery. After suffering a torn calf, I decided not to hang on until the very last second and left the game still happy and healthy.
Carol: You played at 235 pounds. You’re much leaner today. Is that by design?
BR: The first thing I did after retiring was drop 20 – 30 pounds. The extra weight would have taken a toll later on my hips and knees.
Carol: You’re still super-fit. Do you work out?
BR: I walk with Kim every day and use dumbbells at home 2-3 times a week. I like to run and plan to get back into “hot” yoga. I love getting the sweat going.
Carol: What about preventive maintenance?
BR: I definitely keep up with my annual physicals. The League provides screenings and does a great job of making sure all the guys get checked.
Carol: I know Kim is devoted to a Mediterranean style diet. How ‘bout you?
BR: I’m not on the Kimberly Hunt diet … yet! But I try to emulate her, with a cheeseburger thrown in once in a while.
Carol: Hmmm. A cheeseburger with EVOO perhaps?
BR: Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Sure, why not?!
Carol: What about “junk” food?
BR: I love jalapenos … and anything “hot.”
Carol: Any tips for handling stress?
BR: I honestly don’t know what that is. I’m the luckiest guy on earth. Great friends. The greatest wife and daughter. I talk sports and they pay me for it!
Carol: And your co-host, Scott? You seem to get along well…
BR: Funniest guy I know. To be able to laugh things off, that’s huge.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.
Thanks to the Food and Drug Administration and San Diego Union-Tribune journalist R.J. Ignelzi, I finally have clarity on one of the mysteries of the Universe.
Armed with the FDA’s revised labeling and R.J.’s recent article which clearly explains the new rules, I can now boldly and confidently approach the sunscreen display at my neighborhood Rite Aid.
For years I have stared stupidly at the convoluted descriptions on literally scores of different sunscreen products…trying to make a choice often leaving the store empty-handed. SPF 30 or broad spectrum? Anti-aging or UV-B protection? Or UV-A? I don’t know. Waterproof or water resistant? Lotion or spray? It was enough to make me want to stay indoors!
No more! This summer I’m ready to take on Banana Boat, Coppertone or any other sunscreen product that even attempts to intimidate me!
If you haven’t yet loaded up on this summer’s supply of sunscreen, have no fear. A few simple changes on your favorite sunscreen labels will make it a whole lot easier to make the right sunscreen choice for you and your family.
R.J’s informative article in the “Health” section of the U-T, reporting on the government’s revised and updated labeling, cuts through the bureaucratic blather so all you have to do is lather on the sunscreen – confident you’re protected from the sun’s damaging rays.
Here’s what to look for on sunscreen labels now:
SPF value better defined:
The new labeling now tells consumers that sunscreen labeled as SPF 15 (or higher) and “broad spectrum” (see below) not only protect against sunburn, but, if used with other sun protection measures, can reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.
Any sunscreen that has an SPF value between 2 and 14 must now carry a warning: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
No more super SPFs
Sunscreen products that have SPF values higher than 50 must now be labeled as “SPF 50+.”
According to the FDA, SPF 15 blocks about 93 percent of harmful rays. “Any produce with an SPF value of 50 or higher adds little additional protection.”
Under the new regulations, sunscreen products that protect against all types of sun-induced skin damage are labeled “broad spectrum” on the front of the package.
The FDA now has a standard test for over-the-counter sunscreen products that determines which are allowed to be called “broad spectrum.” Products that pass this test will provide protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. Sunburn is caused primarily by UVB. Both can cause sunburn, skin cancer and premature skin aging. By contrast, any sunscreen not labeled “broad spectrum” must state on the label that the product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn – not skin cancer.
Water resistance claims
Manufacturers cannot make claims that sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweat proof.” Instead they may label products as “water resistant,” but must say how much time a user can expect to be protected while swimming or sweating. Based on standard testing, two times are now permitted on labels: 40 or 80 minutes.
No immediate protection
Sunscreen cannot claim protection immediately on application (for example, “instant protection.”] or protection for more than two hours without reapplication, unless they get FDA approval.
No more sun blocks
Since no sunscreen product completely blocks all UV rays, manufacturers cannot use the term “sun block.”
Thanks R.J. Thanks FDA.
Now, be strong and courageous! Consider yourself armed as you take on the sunscreen display this summer and choose the sun protection product that’s just right for you!
See you at the beach!
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.
From the cheerful red geraniums adorning my neighbor’s patio to the symphony of color popping up along the freeway…spring has arrived in the southland in an explosion of buds and blooms. That’s the good news.
The bad news? For many of us, springtime means seasonal allergies. But is it really those poor little petunias, poppies and pansies causing my eyes to water and itch? Are daffodils, daisies and dandelions to blame for my incessant sneezing? I wanted to know so did a little research that helped separate fact from fiction when it comes to allergies.
What a surprise to learn a lot of what I believed about allergies wasn’t true! Check this out and find out what’s really making you sneeze this spring!
1. Desert Climates Cure Allergies
MYTH. Changing climates can affect your reaction to allergy-triggering substances called allergens – but only to a limited extent. Some Easter and Midwestern plants are rare out west, but grass and ragweed pollens are found nearly everywhere. Besides, once you move, you may simply start reacting to different allergens.
2. Flowers Commonly Trigger Allergies
MYTH. Some florists with prolonged exposure to flowers can have allergy symptoms. But very few people are allergic to a bouquet of beautiful blossoms. (Yay!) The culprit is usually the pollen produced by trees, grasses and weeds (and yes, occasionally flowers) picked up by breezes and carried through the air.
3. There’s No Pollen at the Beach
MYTH. (Surprise to me!) Beaches generally have lower pollen counts. However, grasses are common near beaches, and ragweed pollen can be found as far as 400 miles out to sea! Also, even a short drive or walk from the sand will expose you to the region’s pollen-emitting plant life.
4. Pollen Counts Can Predict Bad Days
FACT. Pollen counts determine how many grains of pollen were measured in a specific amount of air over a specific amount of time. You can use the daily pollen count as a tool for minimizing allergen exposure.
5. You Will Outgrown Your Allergies
MYTH. Some children do outgrow certain allergies. But very few outgrow hay fever. A study in Sweden tracked 82 patients with allergic rhinitis. The patients reported 99 percent still suffered from the allergy 12 years later, although 39 percent reported improvement.
6. Rain Washes Away Pollen
FACT. The best day for allergy sufferers to go outdoors are those immediately following heavy rains. Pollen levels can be affected by temperature, time of day, humidity and rain. Pollen counts run lowest on chilly, soggy days and highest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., especially on hot, dry, windy days.
7. Mold Allergies Strike Only Indoors
MYTH. Mold spores are fungi and can be found almost anywhere. They grow on soil, decaying leaves and rotting wood – especially in damp weather. You’re most likely to have an allergic reaction to mold in the summer. Most outdoor molds aren’t active during the winter.
8. Hay Fever Comes From Hay
MYTH. Hay fever isn’t a fever and it doesn’t come from hay! (Sure taught this Iowa girl a thing or two!) Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is caused by tree, grass and weed pollens, as well as mold spores. If you have allergies, you may be more likely to suffer a reaction in a rural area. (But, some studies show children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop allergies.)
9. No Childhood Allergies? No Worries.
MYTH. Allergies often begin in childhood. But you can develop them as an adult, too. Some occur after you change your environment and encounter new allergens. Some adults redevelop symptoms they had during childhood.
10. Regular Injections Can Ease Allergies
FACT. While there are no full cures for allergies, allergy shots – also known as immunotherapy are the closest thing. If you have bad allergies or reactions to many different allergens, you may benefit from immunotherapy. Regular injections may dramatically reduce your reaction to certain allergens.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.