How to Cope with Chronic Nasal Allergies
Let's face it -- dealing with nasal allergies (and related symptoms) is no joke. As I sit here typing this post, my nose is running, my eyes are tearing and a sneezing fit is grabbing me at least once every hour or so. And, yes, I am taking my allergy medicine. But it's a hot, windy day here in Boise, Idaho, and those are prime conditions for a high pollen count and poor air quality. As these symptoms go on, I start to feel drained, annoyed and eventually down in the dumps.
Can you relate? The truth is, it is a well-known fact that allergies can have a significant impact on mood, energy and productivity in sufferers. In fact, studies have shown that most people sufferers feel that allergies sometimes impact their lives in negative ways.
When Allergies "Attack"
When you suffer from nasal allergy, your body overreacts to certain substances or conditions in the environment, called allergens. Examples include pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust mites and insect droppings. If you are sensitive to one or more of these substances, coming into contact with them triggers a complex internal reaction in your body that results in both your upper and lower airways becoming inflamed or irritated. This includes your nose, throat, lungs and even eyes and sinuses.
Resulting symptoms of this inflammation include:
- nasal congestion and stuffiness
- runny nose
- itching of the nose, eyes and throat
- sinus pressure
- epistaxis (bloody nose)
Is it any wonder then that we feel foggy, slow moving and markedly "not well"?
The Impact of Nasal Allergies on People
Quality of life studies reveal that people who have allergies describe them as "debilitating" and interfering, and say allergies often result in missed school or work days.
It's also expensive to have allergies, both from an individual standpoint and in reference to societal impact. I don't know about you, but since my allergy medicine is available over the counter (versus prescription), it is not covered by insurance. It can cost me anywhere from $15 to $30 per month! One report estimates that we spend more than $6 billion a year worldwide on prescription medicine. In addition, lost productivity is valued at $1.5 billion a year.
How to Cope
So, now we know that it's not unusual to feel miserable when allergy symptoms are acting up. If you feel irritable, down in the dumps or like you just don't have the energy to get through the day, you're not alone. These are simply more symptoms of your allergies.
It's important, though, to realize that you don't have to just sit back and accept these effects of your allergies. You can take action to lessen these symptoms or perhaps to even prevent them.
It all comes down to the treatment plan. The first step in treating nasal allergies is to prevent contact with your allergens, at least as much as possible. If you're not sure what allergens you are sensitive to, keeping a symptom diary can help. So can consulting an allergist about possibly undergoing allergy testing.
Once you know your allergens, take steps to avoid them. For example, if you are allergic to pollen, stay indoors in air conditioning on hot, windy days, when pollen counts are high. If you are allergic to pet dander, keep pets out of the bedroom and off furniture. Those are just a couple of examples. You'll find specific posts on this site about dealing with each type of allergen.
But, no matter how hard you work to avoid allergen contact, you'll probably still need to use some kind of antihistamine to stop the allergic process and to reduce your symptoms, or maybe even prevent them. Antihistamines come in pill form, in nasal sprays and in eye drops. Your doctor can help you decide which type of medicine is right for you.
Keep in mind that medication may need to be adjusted from time to time, as you age and as your environment changes. Work closely with your doctor to keep your health and your allergies under control.
Finally, taking steps to live as healthy a life as possible will give you the tools to cope with even severe allergies. Here are a few of the components of a healthy lifestyle:
- Get plenty of sleep. If you can't rest well at night because of allergies, then schedule naps or quiet time during the day to recharge your batteries.
- Make healthy food choices. Studies suggest that eating foods high in antioxidants may support the immune system and help you feel better. Fruits and vegetables are your best source of antioxidants. Nuts are another good source.
- Manage your stress. Things like yoga, meditation, listening to music, reading, exercise and so forth can help you relax and strengthen your coping abilities with everyday life, even if it entails dealing with annoying allergy symptoms.
- Tap into your social support system. Whether it's family, friends, people you've connected with through social media or an online community like HealthCentral, reach out and vent about how you're feeling, both physically and emotionally. It's almost always easier to cope when you're not trying to do it alone.
Try not to "give in" to allergies. Don't let them take you down! Be proactive and take steps to seize control of your life and keep living a quality life.