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Managing Seasonal Allergies

4014611539_bfdaef47d5_mAs Mark observed last week, ProfHacker has a whole series of posts dedicated to Health and Wellness. In addition to running with/from zombies, we have featured posts on managing stress, fitting in fitness, and even recipes from time to time (granola and pizza!). Well, in most parts of the United States and in many places across Europe, spring has sprung. The Eliot scholar side of me is fairly confident that the opening phrase of The Waste Land is not a reference to hay fever, but since moving to South Carolina a few years ago, the part of me that suffers from seasonal allergies is less sure. In any event, here are a few strategies for managing the symptoms of your seasonal allergies in an attempt to make April at least a little less cruel:

  • Minimize exposure. This article from the Mayo Clinic suggests that the less you are in contact with your allergens, the better. Stay indoors if possible. Close windows and doors. Delegate yardwork. If you are outside, wear a hat and sunglasses.

  • Rinse it off. Staying inside isn’t always realistic, so if you do go outside, changes your clothes when you come back indoors. Even better, shower and be sure to wash your hair. Hair, apparently, collects pollen like nobody’s business, so even if you don’t want to shampoo, rinsing will get rid of it and alleviate some discomfort.

  • Flush it out. If you suffer from rhinitis (nasal congestion and swelling), you might consider a Neti Pot to irrigate your nasal passage and wash out any allergens. If you do use a Neti pot, but sure to boil the water first to avoid any potential infection. Or if the thought of nasal irrigation makes you squeamish, saline sprays can also be effective.

  • Machine wash & often. The image of sheets drying on a clothes line might seem appealing in theory, but in practice, clothes and linens that are dried outdoors are pollen magnets. Even if you don’t hang your laundry outside to dry, fabric collects pollen. And by fabric, I don’t just mean clothes but also upholstery and bedding. If you or a family member suffers from spring allergies, doing lots of laundry can help.

  • Get back-up. I assume that most people reading this will already be taking an over-the-counter allergy treatment of some kind or other: Claritin, Zyrtec, Alavert, etc., but if those aren’t helping, or if they aren’t helping enough, see your doctor. There are prescription supplements that might make a difference, or your doctor might decide that you are a good candidate for immunotherapy (allergy shots).

  • 3-2-1-Contact! I offer this last tip with the disclaimer that it may be completely psychosomatic. I have found that wearing my contact lenses has made a big difference in my symptoms. Specifically, in the springtime, I usually have many days where I feel like someone has lit my eyeballs on fire and reinserted them into my eye-sockets. In addition to the terrible burning sensation, my eyes are often incredibly bloodshot, and allergy eye drops (both OTC and prescription) provide short-term relief, but didn’t solve the problem. Upon the advice of a friend, I tried wearing my contacts more during allergy season last year, and it seemed to really help. I have followed that advice again this year and again noticed marked decrease in symptoms. Note: I’m still suffering from other symptoms (for me, the worst is a sinus headache), but my eyes aren’t burning or itchy. Again, I have no scientific evidence to support this hypothesis, but you might find it helps.

If you have tips to help manage seasonal allergies, please share them in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user mcfarlandmo]

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