My dog looked quizzically at me early this morning. Snagging a nearby sneaker in her mouth, she peered at me intently. Her question was obvious – “Are we going for a walk?” And unfortunately, my answer was no, thanks to having a bad case of seasonal allergies that started last Friday when a front blew in. We’re now seeing high levels of weed and grass pollens, moderate levels of mold and low levels of tree pollen – all signs of spring as well as clogged sinuses. The good news is that those pollen levels are supposed to decline over the next few days, but until they do, I want to stay inside and keep a tissue box nearby. And many parts of my daily life – from the desire to go exercise outdoors to actually getting hungry – have been affected by being congested.
So if you’re suffering like I am, what are options to get relief?
The Mayo Clinic recommends making lifestyle changes when your allergies start to flare up. If high pollen counts are forecasted by your local media, start taking allergy medication before symptoms show up. Stay indoors on dry and windy days. Take off clothes that you’ve worn outside and shower to remove pollen from your body. Wait to head outdoors until after a good rain, which can clear much of the pollen out of the air. Make sure windows and doors are closed both in your home and in your car. Additionally, avoid outdoor activities (such as walking the dog) in the early morning when pollen counts are the highest.
There are many options of medications that can ease your runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include:
- Nasal sprays. These sprays, which include cromolyn sodium, help ease symptoms. It’s recommended that you start using the spray before your symptoms start so be sure to watch those allergy forecasts!
- Oral antihistamines. These medications can help with your runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes. Be cautious, though, because some antihistamines such as diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine can make you drowsy.
- Oral decongestants. These medications, which can come in nasal sprays, can provide temporary relief from stuffiness. However, long-term use of these nasal sprays can make your symptoms worse so only opt for these when you need short-term relief.
- Combination medications. These medications combine an antihistamine with a decongestant.
Using a Neti Pot
This pot is used to flush mucus and allergens from the nose using a saline solution. You do need to be careful using this method because, as reported in the New York Times last fall, patients have contracted deadly brain infections using neti pots that were filled with tap water. Therefore, be sure to use water that is sterile or that has been previously boiled and cooled. Distilled water and filtered water also work.
A recently published study out of Germany found that acupuncture may provide some help in seasonal allergy symptoms. In this study, researchers randomly assigned 422 people who had seasonal allergies to receive a real acupuncture treatment and medication, a fake acupuncture treatment and medication, or medication alone. The participants participated in 12 treatment sessions over an eight-week period. The study analysis found that 71 percent of people in the acupuncture group said their allergies had improved and the average allergy symptom scores decreased from 2.7 to 1.7 points (with a scale of 6 being the highest and 0 being the least amount of symptoms) in the group that received acupuncture. Interestingly, 55 percent of the participants who were treated with the fake acupuncture said their symptoms improved and reported their average allergy symptom scores decrease from 2.3 to 1.8 points. The people in the medication-only group also experienced a slight decline, from 2.5 to 2.2 points. However, the researchers found that there were not any differences in symptom improvement between the three groups eight weeks after the treatment ended.