Georgia, specifically Macon, is not the ideal place to live when it comes to Spring and Fall, the two biggest allergy seasons. On top of the giant yellow cloud of pollen emitted from the the pine trees violating me and everything I own, it’s cherry blossom season. Every city has their own “thing”, and Macon’s is those dang cherry blossom trees. They have a huge festival every year to celebrate the trees. Now, granted, they are gorgeous trees. I love watching those pretty pink petals catch the wind and float to the earth. But during allergy season, I would love nothing more than to burn the stupid things to the ground. I won’t do that because it would kill me to destroy something so beautiful that brings joy to lots of people, but the thought of it makes me happy.
I digress. My allergies make me completely miserable. My eyes get all squinty and watery, my throat gets scratchy, I sneeze so hard I think I’m going to pull a muscle at some point. It’s enough to make me want to live in a giant hamster ball with filter oxygen for the duration of Spring. But life must go on, so here’s I deal with it.
Kill all the dust mites. All of them. Pollen isn’t the only thing that kills me. According to my allergy test (the kind where they prick you 50 times on your arm to find out what you’re allergic to), I am allergic to both dust and dust mites, foreign and domestic. I am literally safe nowhere. You can try some of those hypo-allergenic covers for your mattress and pillows. Personally, they crinkle and make it very difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Instead, I clean often – including the mattress – and wash the bedding every week. One of those washings each month is a hot wash, which will destroy whatever is still living on there from previous washings. If you have really severe allergies, you may want to wash your sheets in a hot wash every week.
Put on armor. Housework and yardwork are unavoidable tasks that we must accomplish. So take the proper precautions. Wear a mask while cleaning or mowing the yard. While working outside, wear glasses that wrap around your face to reduce the amount of pollen that gets into your eyes. As much as you love sun-dried clothes, just use the dryer. And shower immediately after finishing your work outside.
Local honey is the best. I’m sure by now we’ve all heard the “local honey” theory. If you haven’t, the theory says that bees transfer pollen from flowers to honey, so by eating local honey and introducing a little bit of that pollen into your system you are basically inoculating yourself against the Spring pollen storm. It hasn’t been scientifically proven, but with all the health benefits from honey, it can’t hurt!
Do a saline nasal rinse. It’s hard to walk around with a mask on your face all the time, especially if you’re trying to be professional. Sometimes you just can’t help it. Nasal rinses come in the form of sprays and Neti pots. Sprays are easy to use on the go, although neti pots are my favorite way to soothe aggravated sinus cavities. Whatever your preferred route, they work by clearing allergens from your nasal membranes and almost immediately reduce symptoms. My husband laughed at me when I told him – “It’s just weird,” he said – but after using a neti pot twice a day, he was able to breathe easily by the end of the week.
Give herbal remedies a try. I’m not much on homeopathic or essential oil treatments. Those just seem a little psychosomatic to me (don’t jump all over my case here, guys, it’s just MY opinion). However, I do believe very strongly in herbal remedies, whether in a tea or capsule form. One herb that is growing increasingly popular with allergy sufferers is butterbur. Supposedly, it works to decrease airway inflammation. In a Swiss study, they found that butterbur and cetirizine (Zyrtec) performed the same, but with butterbur leading the pack with no adverse reactions. Cetirizine, although marketed as a non-drowsy medication, tended to make some patients in the trial sleepy. As one who used to take Zyrtec, I can attest to the drowsy factor.
Eucalyptus oil. Okay, okay, I said that I wasn’t fond of essential oils but yet I’m including one in the article. This isn’t necessarily aromatherapy. Eucalyptus provides a menthol-like smell that can open airways, the reason so many people adore Vicks. So whether you add that oil to steam to inhale or you heat it in one of those fancy oil warmers, it can be very beneficial.
Spicy foods. My father never got sick. As a kid, I didn’t either. The allergies came when I got older. He would always make a HUGE pot of jambalaya, with both mild and medium sausages in it. Three bites in was all it took before you were sweating and your nose was running like a leaky faucet. Sounds disgusting, but it felt amazing. The effect may be temporary, but sometimes even 10 minutes of relief is enough to get your fight back!
Hot tea. Bust out the peppermint tea! Similar to the benefits of eucalyptus oil, holding your face over a steaming up of hot peppermint tea can help to soothe irritated nasal passages. Drinking it can soothe a sore and scratchy throat, especially if you include some local honey.
Take allergy medication, and make sure to start before allergy season. There are a LOT of allergy medications on the market, including Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra. These are usually 24 hour pills that you take once a day. For severe allergies, they also make nasal sprays like Flonase. They take about a week to build up in your system, but many sufferers swear by them. My personal favorites are daily Allegra (it doesn’t make me drowsy or jittery), and Benadryl if it just gets out of control. If none of the OTC medications work, talk to your doctor about allergy shots.
Invest in HEPA filters. For small areas, you can buy one of those wonderful air purifiers that act as a magnet for all kinds of allergens. You may also want to go one step further and incorporate them into your home’s central heat and air system, as it will clean a lot more at once! They work great not only for pollen, but dust and pet dander too!