Avoiding behaviors that can cause health problems seems like the sensible and right thing to do.
But we often prefer treatment or medication over avoidance. The problem is we want to eat our cake and have it, too.
It doesn’t make sense to take a medication to treat heartburn just so you can eat those same spicy foods that caused the problem in the first place. Perhaps it would be wise to limit spicy foods and eat them only occasionally.
It has never made sense when people have life-saving heart surgery and then go back to eating a high-calorie, high-fat diet without thinking about how they are clogging their arteries again. They should follow a heart-healthy diet and avoid high-fat foods.
It doesn’t make sense to continue smoking if you have asthma and then use your rescue inhaler often.
Avoidance, in combination with treatment or medication, can offer the best approach to some health problems.
I have thought a lot about avoidance after the ragweed allergy season officially began on Aug. 15. Five people who suffer from ragweed allergies complained about their miserable state of life in the past week.
They all had the sneezing, runny noses and swollen, itchy, watery eyes. They were even armed with antihistamines and decongestants.
But they all forget about avoidance. They all left their windows open at night so the cool air could circulate throughout their homes along with the pollen.
“Avoidance, if possible, is the mainstay of treatment,” said Dr. Mary Morris, an allergist with Allergy Associates. “It is so simple.”
Morris said she has had patients calling her because they wake up congested after leaving their windows open over night.
“People forget about avoidance, but it can make a big difference,” she said.
Morris said people need to keep their house and car windows closed and run their air conditioning. It means keeping early morning activity levels down because most pollen and mold is released between 5 and 10 a.m., she said.
It means never drying clothes outside, Morris added.
“People hang out a pillow case on the clothesline and then they lie on it,” Morris said.
“There is a resurgence of people not using dryers as part of the green movement and trying to save money,” she said. “But they forget clothes collect pollen, especially on a windy day.”
The ragweed season peaks in late August and continues until late September or the first frost.
Ragweed is a stubborn plant that can grow practically anywhere, and it produces 1 billion grains in an average season.
It’s hard to avoid pollen. But avoidance can make the ragweed allergy season less miserable.
The next time we reach for our medicine, we also need to think about avoidance: What can we do to avoid this medical problem?