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How to Deal with Allergies while Living in the U.S.

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Allergies happen all around the world, and foreign students planning a study abroad trip to the United States should learn about triggers that exist, as well as available treatments.  Especially if you are already experiencing allergies in your own home country.

Pre-existing Allergies

If you already have life threatening allergies, you should bring your own medication with you to the U.S.  However, please note, the only medication we recommend you bring is that which a medical doctor has prescribed for you.  This way you will not encounter any difficulties with the airlines or U.S. border patrol.  Non-prescribed medication could be construed as trying to enter the U.S. with illegal drugs.  So, make sure your medication has the prescription label affixed to the container, is in your name, and you have a letter from your doctor indicating he/she has prescribed this medicine for you.  If the medicine is something you need with you all the time, but it does not meet the airline security guidelines for what you can bring on board, you can get a waiver by presenting the letter, along with showing the affixed prescription label.  Be prepared by giving yourself extra time boarding because you may need to go through secondary screening so the TSA can inspect the medication. 

Common Allergies in the U.S.

1. Tree, grass pollens, weed pollens, and mold spores.  These types of allergies are experienced by many people living in the United States.  For internationals these allergies may be even worse because certain types of pollen are foreign to your bodies.  Pollen counts start appearing in news reports as soon as the winter thaw occurs in the northern states.  However, in the southern states anyone with grass allergies can experience eye watering, runny nose, sneezing or coughing symptoms year round. If you are having problems, try some of the many over-the-counter medications which can be found in grocery stores or drug stores.  If you are experiencing more severe symptoms, make an appointment with a doctor and ask for stronger, prescription medications or allergy shots.  There also are natural remedies you could try using.  In the United States there are many naturopath doctors and "health food" stores.  There you may find alternatives to deal with your allergies, so you don't have to use the harsher prescription drugs. 

2. Food allergies.  If you already know what foods you are allergic to, it is acceptable to ask your dinner host or server if a menu item contains any ingredients you're allergic to.  Most people and restaurants are used to dealing with food allergy issues and will be more than happy to accommodate your meal so you can be assured it is free of the food for which you are allergic.   However, since the United States is a melting pot of cultures, and in many cities you can find restaurants serving unusual foods, you may come across foods that you never knew you were allergic to.  If you tend to be allergic to some food, it is advised that any new food you introduce to your diet, you should test first before you consume a lot of it.  Start by just taking a small bite, and then wait a few minutes to see if you get any type of life threatening reaction.  Other allergies may not be so apparent.  Some allergies are not life threatening, but they can make you sick.   You may notice that you aren't feeling so well hours, maybe even a day, after eating.  Pay attention to this.  Maybe start a food diary to keep track of what you are eating and correlate it to how you are feeling. If you are not used to cow dairy products, you may want to track your usage of these products and how you feel afterwards.  In addition, food in the United States uses a lot of pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, additives, antibiotics, or hormones,which may be causing an allergic reaction.  If you starting to not feeling well after eating food in the United States, try eating only certified organic foods and see if that helps.  (Certified organic foods are those that do not use any pesticides, fungicides, insecticides additives, antibiotics or hormones.)

If you know you have a sensitivity or are allergic to outdoor or food environments, be sure to discuss your planned travels with your doctor to determine what actions you can take to treat any symptoms you might experience. And if you are not yet aware of any allergies, do be aware of your health and the environment you're living in, so you can keep any eye out for any allergies you might be experiencing. For more information, visit www.aafa.org  or www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies.aspx.

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