Fighting Allergies, and Winning

June 29th, 2014

Allergy season here in Colorado is picking up, and while we may be getting towards the end of the heavy tree pollen portion, weeds (not that kind…) (did I just make two marijuana puns in a row?), and grasses are on the way up.

So what can you do besides take meds that may wipe you out and increase your risk for auto accidents? Well I’ll give you a few tips for dealing with those itchy eyes, runny nose, fatigue, and headaches which are often associated with seasonal allergies.

Flush it out

Using saline nasal sprays and eye drops are a great way for washing bits of pollen that we collect as we move about from day to day. Neti pots are also a good option, but be sure to use distilled or sterile water in them to avoid amoebic infection from tap water — You can boil tap water for 3-5 min before using it as well, but please be sure to let it cool off to room temperature before putting it in your face.

Block the door

Wearing paper masks when outside can reduce the amount of pollen that you breathe into your body.

Changing air filters in your car and home can help make sure that the air you breathe when inside has reduced levels of common allergens found in the environment.

A few supplements

Among the supplements touted for their ability to help with seasonal allergies, the one with the most evidence for helping with hay fever is called butterbur. Coincidentally, this herb is also good at helping those who suffer from migraine headaches when taken regularly!

Other herbs like nettle, horny goat weed (this name is for real) and golden seal in tonic form may also be helpful but have limited evidence supporting their use.

Vitamins E and C may also be helpful in managing symptoms. A supplement called quercetin may also be of benefit.

If you have any questions about dosing of these supplements, or recommendations for OTC medications, be sure to ask at your next visit.

Help from your food

Cooking/eating spicy meals can help clear your sinuses out by thinning your mucous secretions. Frequently recommended spices for this purpose include cayenne pepper, hot ginger, fenugreek, onion, and garlic.

Alternative health options

Acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation can be beneficial for stimulating the immune system, which can help your body fend off allergens more effectively.

Miscellaneous tips 

Pollen blooms tend to be worst around two in the morning, so sleeping with the windows open if you have bad allergies may not be the best idea.

If you are taking OTC medications you are probably best served to take them before you go to bed.

I would avoid taking Benadryl unless you have nowhere to be for awhile. Some studies suggest that it impairs drivers worse than alcohol!

There are other medical options like corticosteroids and injections which can be helpful for those whose allergies do not respond well to conservative interventions and those who suffer from moderate to severe allergies. Please be sure to discuss those options with your MD if you feel like you are in that category!

Lastly, be sure not to combine medical and complementary treatments without discussing it with your provider as you can end up making yourself very ill in the process.