As we enter pollen season, it's a good time to "empty the bucket" and get as cleaned out as we can. It's also a good time to recall the healthy allergic-living habits we may have gotten complacent about over the winter. Especially for those of us with both pollen allergies and food allergies - here are some things that can help as the pollen begins to envelope our worlds. Stack the deck in your favor! This is my nemesis: Birch Pollen. Magnified a bazillion (okay, not sure how many, but a lot) of times.
Some things that have helped me:
- Renew the ritual of sanitizing sheets and pillows. I do this weekly. This keeps me from beginning a reaction to dust mites, which helps me be less reactive to foods and pollen.
- Change air filters - use a HEPA filter if you can. Yes, they're expensive but even if you only use one during your peak season, you'll be giving your body a boost in the fight.
- Vacuum with a HEPA filtered vacuum. Do I need to remind you to minimize rugs, drapes, books on your night stand?
- Get on a regimen of Zyrtec or similar meds - take daily to ensure preventing histamine reactions vs trying to combat it once it's begun.
- Put saline eye drops in the fridge for cooling relief when coming inside from outdoors. I also keep Pataday in there and use one drop each day, each eye.
- Ask your doctor about nasal sprays like Veramyst that help prevent the histamine reaction. This is not an addictive decongestant type like you see in commercials.
- Remember to rinse or wash hair rather than carry the pollen to bed with you. Even wiping with a damp towel will help.
- If you flush your eyes, use cool or cold water, not warm. Do not rub! Rubbing and heat stimulate histamine production.
- Avoid things you are mildly allergic to (for me, I have to remember not to pet the cute dogs that always run to me on my walks. So hard!)
One of these things is not like the other
But my system totally thinks it is! If you have oral allergy syndrome, your body can confuse the thing that you're allergic to (like Birch pollen) with things you're not typically allergic to, like stone fruit, apples, fennel. The proteins in these groups of items look to an allergic person's system, so similar to the thing they are actually allergic to, your immune system reacts as if you consumed the very thing you were carefully avoiding.
My tenth tip:
You can reduce your chance of triggering cross-reaction during "your" chief pollen season. Remember to avoid, peel or cook those fruits that are triggers. (e.g. For me - birch pollen means I peel apples whose skins I can eat in the winter, have more vigilance about carrots - an independent allergy as well as an OAS trigger for birch family.) In winter I can eat an apple raw, out of hand, peel and all. In Birch pollen season - doing so could trigger bad reactions. I peel the fruit (most of the problem seems to come from the peel) or cook it. With fruit -- unlike nuts, or milk -- cooking it actually does change the structure of the protein so your body is less likely to react to it. So that fresh juicy nectarine or peach could be trouble. Peel it or make a cobbler.
Finally, I want to share that I've had good relief from Florasone cream which is an OTC homeopathic topical cream that helps calm hives/eczema.
Those lovely trees they plant in urban areas to green things up? They're usually male (prettier) and the worst pollen offenders! So living in a city doesn't necessarily confer any benefits to seasonal allergy sufferers.
Now - What other tips or advice or resources do you have to share?
[Update: happy to report two things helping me this horrible "worst in 27 years in the Northeast" according to Weather Underground report I just read. First, acupuncture. Next year I'm going to start a regimen before the season starts, for even better results. Secondly, chrysanthemum tea. I drink it with local honey, but save the tea bag/sachet and let it cool and use it as a compress.]