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Published on December 30, 2015

A new year’s countdown to better breathingA new year’s countdown to better breathing

When a new year rolls around, it’s time to take a deep breath and tackle some resolutions. But what if taking a deep breath is difficult?

Here are five tips from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) to help you control allergies and asthma in 2016.

5) Exercise smarter – “Cold air is used in laboratory studies to trigger asthma,” said Dr. Paul Sklarew, MD, of the Allergy & Asthma Centers of Cape Cod, who agreed with the ACAAI’s recommendations. “You want to continue exercising year-round, but if you have breathing problems, you should consider limiting how much you exercise outdoors.”

The ACAAI says that swimming, volleyball and other sports requiring only short bursts of activity may be best. And, if you use an inhaler, don’t forget to use it before exercising.

4) Pack your bags wisely – “There’s no pollen in the north during the winter, but if you’re going down south on a vacation, pollen is an issue,” said Dr. Sklarew. “Be sure to bring an antihistamine.”

People who are allergic to dust mites may have trouble while traveling. “A carpeted and draped hotel room is a place that’s hospitable for dust mites,” said Dr. Sklarew.

The ACAAI points out that some hotels’ web sites offer allergy-free rooms, “but make sure your definition of allergy-free lines up with theirs in order to avoid triggers.”

3) Kick the cigarettes – We all know the hazards of smoking, but “second-hand smoke is recognized as a more important health factor than we thought a generation ago,” said Dr. Sklarew. “Among other things, it can make asthma worse for people in the household. Eliminating second-hand smoke improves children’s pulmonary function and lessens their chance of developing asthma.” According to the ACAAI, “a recent study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology showed children with asthma who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home have nearly double the risk of being hospitalized than children with asthma who aren’t exposed.”

2) See an allergist – Cape Cod’s spring pollen season is months away, but some allergy medications work best if you start taking them 12 weeks before symptoms start. “The beginning of the year is a perfect time to see an allergist and learn about your options,” said the ACAAI. An allergist can determine what is causing symptoms, and show you how to avoid triggers.

1) Load up on infoThe ACAAI’s web site has information on seasonal allergies, food allergies, pet allergies and much more. The ACAAI Allergy Tracker app will help you track your symptoms, identify your triggers and pinpoint effective medications.

Dr. Sklarew recommended an article on that lists seven ways to fight winter allergies at home.