Feeling like the respiratory spasmodic little dude from Snow White this summer?
While that anticipated pollen vortex was not nearly as unpleasant as expected, we may not be out of the woods - so to speak. Experts concede that the most intense of summer allergies may be yet to come. For some of us that signifies a series of sneezing fits or inconvenient symptoms – but for others it can be a bit more debilitating. Often, our immune response when plants catch spring fever is to create antibodies. Wherever they attach (usually to cells in the nose, eyes, and lungs), a histamine gets released. And while the body’s just trying to protect itself, that’s ultimately the misery causing chemical. So if you’re at the end of your red nosed rope – perhaps some of these methods ranging from conventional to not so conventional might bring you a bit of relief.
As ever, please consult a physician before beginning a medical course of treatment.
Among the newer treatments, you may have heard about the new pill called Oralair (video above) that may soon partially supplant injections. The pill – which just got FDA approved last month certainly sounds hopeful, but the drawback is that you have to take it early enough before sneezin’ season for it to function and counteract some allergies. For example, it’s too late for grass allergy sufferers. However, if you experience symptoms from ragweed allergies, you might still benefit and want to ask your doctor. As mentioned in the clip above, it does run about $200 – but if your insurance is better than mine, you might land a better deal.
If that's not for you, let's look at some other tried and true methods...
Antihistamines and Decongestants
Those histamines we just talked about can be a real itchy nuisance. Anything from runny noses to itchy eyes or skin rashes can be a day ruiner – especially if you’re expected to look your professional best. Antihistamines (which come in various forms like tablets, capsules, liquids, nasal sprays, and eyedrops) might just do the trick. Because they cause drowsiness, it’s generally suggested not to take them until bedtime.
Talking like you’ve got a clothespin over your nose? Decongestants might be the right fit for those narrowed nasal passages. Where allergies make the respiratory lining swell, decongestants can come in and shrink the inflamed tissues and blood vessels. There are pills, liquids, nose drops, and spray forms for decongestants – but use with care. Things to watch out for with these guys? You may want to play down you coffee while taking (or at least avoid before bed). Decongestants can make some feel a bit jittery. Also, avoid using this medication for more than three days. After that, your body gets a bit dependent on it and you may find yourself even more stuffy.
Anticholinergic Nasal Allergy Sprays
Instead of being stuffy - is hose nose your main conundrum this year? The idea with anticholinergic nasal sprays is to decrease secretions from the glands that line your nasal passages, thus putting an end to runny nose symptoms.
Steroid Nasal Sprays
Considered one of the big guns in allergy treatment, steroid sprays mitigate your allergy symptoms by decreasing the inflammation happening in the nasal passage. While they’re deemed the most effective treatment for relief of allergic rhinitis (hay fever), these bad boys are available by prescription only. So if you’re still not getting what you need OTC, perhaps your medical provider can tell you more about whether steroids are your next best step.
Allergy Eye Drops
Remember those Ben Stein commercials for allergy eye drops? Wait, I found one:
Unlike Mr. Stein’s voice inflection, there’s variety in eye drop choices (and brands - I’m not endorsing anything here). Whether you want to kill the itchy redness or just need some moisture to flush the pollen from your peepers – there’s everything from artificial tears to antihistamines and anti-inflammatories. The anti-inflammatories have two classes: NSAIDs and corticosteroids. The former group (NSAIDs) alters nerve ending perceptions of itch-factor (sometimes it burns a bit on the way in; I entered drama mode the first time I tried them - but the relief was worth it within an hour).
For severe eye allergy symptoms that have been going on a while, Corticosteroid drops may help. However (like the other steroids you need a prescription to get), they’re not suggested for long-term use. Cataracts, eye infection, glaucoma, and increased pressure in your eyes are all risks that get raised with overuse of this stuff.
Tried everything? Have you tried leukotriene inhibitors? Fairly new to the allergy-relief world, Montelukast (Singulair) helps assuage allergy symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. Congestion gets reduced along with sneezing, itching, and wanting to scratch out your own eyes. For those who get that panicky “can’t-breathe” feeling, it also helps keep airways to the lungs open. How? It shuts down the chemical called leukotriene. As leukotriene is responsible for making nasal passages swell, causing globs of mucus, and constricting airways in asthmatics, this can prove super helpful for sufferers of all sorts.
Next come a few for the non-pharmaceutical folk and homeopathic homies...
— Adrienne Urban (@WholeNewMom) May 29, 2014
You know, I often run to CVS when a simple solution will do. A literal solution, in this case – of salt and water. There are all sorts of nasal irrigation products out there and you can buy it ready-made or brew it up yourself in the kitchen. These just get sniffed up the nose and drain back. It’s a little weird feeling at first, but ultimately it can be a nice alternative to the side effects some of the other options bring with them.
I love keeping my window open, but during the humid summer, that can make for a lot of moisture. While I don’t mind it, neither does mold. In fact, mold thrives in damp atmospheres. If you’re like me (or have in-home dampness for whatever reason), then a dehumidifier might be right for you. Mold, mildew, or dust mite allergies can often be the culprit – not pollen. And if it’s inside your home, that can cause some thoroughgoing misery (sneezing, wheezing, eye and nose irritation) even after you’ve shut all the doors and windows. Costs of dehumidifiers range anywhere from $200 (small, portable sort) to $2,000 (massive built-in ones).
I can’t think of many times when stepping out of a hot shower hasn’t felt refreshing. And after a long day outside, it can help with multiple allergy factors as well. One thing I hadn’t considered before this year was how pollen can latch onto our locks. That's right. While Gretchen Weiner's hair may be full of secrets, ours if full of "mean" sneeze fodder after being in nature. So, a hot rinse with a good hair-scrubbing often helps get out the pollen. Likewise, the steam from the shower sometimes aids in opening up your breathing passage. Win-win in my book.
— Captain Steamer (@CaptainSteamer) March 22, 2013
In the same vein of cleaning your body, a thorough house cleaning can help rid what dehumidifiers don’t. Because it’s such a chore, my selective memory usually over-estimates how much cleaning I actually do or how frequently. But once I get a good playlist going and start that vacuuming, dusting, and bed-cover changing done, I can almost breathe the difference before I even get halfway done. (psychological?) I highly endorse wearing a mask if you've let your dusting go a while.
Likewise, cleaning our pets is important too. He/she/androgynous they all get pollen stuck in their fluff - just like we do with our hair.
This remedy is one that I really didn’t believe was going to do anything other than freshen my breath. In fact, I went into giving it the old college try with such a defeatist outlook that I was 100% surprised that it both counteracted my face-spasm inducing sneezing fit and my bad attitude. That might be because the essential oil does the job of a decongestant, while the peppermint itself contains anti-inflammatory and mild antibacterial constituent properties. To be fair, though, maybe the little fortune-cookie style affirmations Yogi puts on their tea-bags helped in my case too.
— Kimberly Rinaldi (@Live_Joy_Fully) June 17, 2014
Anyone ever tried hypnosis before? I’ve tried it for everything from back pain to quitting my Breaking Bad addiction. Conclusions? Sometimes it works and sometimes you just harbor an existential need to know what happens to the fictional science teacher turned drug kingpin. As for allergies, I’d never even thought about it. However, a 2005 Swiss study put allergy patients into a hypnotic trance (a state at which you become open to suggestion), and imagined them into a place of safety, free of allergens. In fact, those who underwent the experience admitted about a third of their congestion during allergy season was reduced. Better than nothing, right? If nothing else, perhaps a swinging timepiece could go in one hand while your Flonase rests in the other – just in case.
From natural remedies to frequent pharmacy trips to keep you serene - what’s worked best for ceasing your sneezy summer symptoms?
Image via Youtube