Achoo! Sniffle. Arrgh! 5 tricks to living well with allergies.

Are allergies running your life.

Man of us can’t wait for spring so they can shed their heavy outerwear and go outside to do something besides shovel snow. The sun warms the soil, the grass turns green, and trees bud and flower. People rush outdoors, but some of us unhappily huddle inside with our air conditioners running.

10153211_10203307385953003_778096573395877304_nTulip Time is a three-day festival held the first weekend of May. About 200,000 people swell the population in our beautiful town of 10,000+. For more information, go to: http://www.pella.org/visit-pella/tulip-time-2015/ 

As nerdy as it sounds, these three days are great fun, and it takes a plethora of costumed Pella volunteers to make this event successful.

Volunteers spend hours outdoors in air full of pollen–and I have a two-hour window, on a good day, before misery sets in. Unfortunately, a short time outdoors makes me miserable and ineffective for at least the rest of the day, and each time I go out my tolerance level is shorter. Every year I’m faced with the question: do I watch children, now grandchildren, in parades and performances, check out the food and craft booths, meet friends or do I volunteer? 

I love being in the center of all the excitement and missing out makes me feel sorry for myself. I’ve tried all available medical interventions, and they reduce but don’t eliminate the problem. So for years I thought my choices were: misery or pity party.

The truth is, I can’t erase my allergies to grass and tree pollen. I’m in my 60s, and I can’t remember a time when they didn’t impact me. However, I refuse to accept only the two choices above so through study and experimentation I found ways to lessen the impact of allergies on my life, and I’d like to share them with you.

  1. Experiment with available antihistamines. You are unique, and what works for your cousin may not be best for you.
    1. If you only take antihistamines seasonally, start with a daily half-dose a month before your annual attack.
    2. Take only an antihistamine, NOT one that also contains a decongestant. My reasoning and experience is this: long-term decongestant use is not good for your body and can make you jittery. You can add a decongestant (in addition to the antihistamine) whenever you need it. I use a 4-hour variety which gives me greatest control.
  2. Know how antihistamines work in your body and understand that they are most effective when used as a preventative (in a similar manner as pain medication). Don’t wait until you are so miserable you can hold out any longer, but take antihistamines on a regular schedule.
  3. After you spend time outside, take a shower and change clothes as soon as you come inside. This washes pollen from your hair, skin, and clothing and eliminates continued contact with allergens. (Don’t keep outdoor clothes in a laundry basket in your bedroom or you will have reactions.)
    1. This will work best if others in your household follow the same regimen. Otherwise they deposit allergens on your furniture, bed sheets, pillowcases, etc. If they bring allergens into the house, staying in air conditioning with be much less effective.
    2. Have people take off their shoes when they enter the house. Vacuum high-trafficked areas often.
    3. It’s a pain for all involved–but when you’re happy and functioning, those around you reap the benefits also.
  4. Buy a sinus wash kit or a neti pot. I resisted this for years because the idea grossed me out. Because of my stubbornness, I suffered from my symptoms more than I needed to. Sinus wash once a day, at night before you go to bed during your allergy season. It makes a big difference.
  5. Find out what triggers your symptoms to appear earlier. For me it is temperature. On a cool day I can be outside longer than on a hot one.

Allergies are a gift that goes on giving year after year. My attitude makes a big difference on the impact they have on my life and those around me. I can accept my physical limitations during that season with grace or self-pity. My choice.

Are you struggling with allergies?
Is there something that works for you? Please share.

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