Seasonal Misery: Finding Relief From Springtime Allergies

Identifying and avoiding the things that trigger your symptoms can help to alleviate season allergy symptoms. In addition, eating a diet low in sugar, alcohol and highly processed foods, as well as not smoking, may help relieve symptoms, too.

The scratch in the throat, the itch in the eyes, the congestion in the nose — these symptoms are all too common in our region right now as springtime allergies hit their peak.

Local doctors say while symptoms may vary from person to person, there are some telltale signs that you may be suffering from seasonal allergies.

“Common symptoms of seasonal (or year-round) allergies, include itchy eyes, nasal congestion, and sneezing,” explains Dr. Ingrid Bauer, a primary care doctor at Western Sierra Clinic in Grass Valley. “Sometimes symptoms may include brain fog, headache, ear fullness, sore throat, and/or a dry cough.”

If these symptoms sound familiar to you, you are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than 19 million Americans experience seasonal allergies every year. Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States.

While allergy symptoms are typically more of a nuisance for most people, they can become bothersome enough that they lead to missed work time and missed school days. The CDC says that “allergic rhinitis” (the official diagnosis for seasonal allergies) accounts for seven million doctor visits every year.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to relieve your symptoms. First step, according to Dr. Bauer, is to identify the things that trigger your symptoms.

“Are you allergic to cats, or dust mites, or pine pollen? Do you get allergies in March or April, when you mow or sweep the house, or year-round? If you have an identified trigger, find ways to avoid it if possible. For some, that may mean wearing an N95 mask when cleaning or doing yard work; others may need to keep windows and doors closed and limit outdoor activities during allergy season. You may need to change bedding or purchase special covers if dust mites are contributing to allergies.”

You may want to keep a log or diary of your symptoms, noting the day and time and the type of symptom, as well as any activities you were doing that may have contributed. Sharing that information with your doctor may help you identify your personal triggers.

Once the symptoms hit, Dr. Bauer says rinsing your sinuses can help to relieve some of your discomfort.

“Any form of sterile saline rinse, used regularly, can dramatically reduce your allergy symptoms and limit the frequency of complications like sinus or ear infections,” she explains. “I don’t have a preference between a traditional neti pot, a fancy electronic rinsing machine you buy online, or a disposable saline spray from the pharmacy; the best technology is the one you use daily.”

Dr. Bauer also recommends looking at some of your lifestyle choices and behaviors to see if there are changes you can make to reduce your symptoms. First and foremost – she urges her patients not to smoke.

“Any particulate you inhale will irritate your airways, causing inflammation that creates more phlegm,” she says. “Avoid wood fire, industrial fumes and dust, cannabis, and tobacco smoke at all costs!”

In addition, Dr. Bauer says that your diet may also contribute to your symptoms.

“Sugar, alcohol, and highly processed foods (especially white flour products and fried foods) cause inflammation,” she explains.

Even for people who don’t have a specific food allergy, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease, pro-inflammatory foods can make symptoms of allergic rhinitis worse.

“I always promote a rainbow-colored diet rich in vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats,” Dr. Bauer says. “Add lots of fresh herbs and warming spices like ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and cinnamon to your meals for extra flavor and antioxidant activity. To quench your thirst, get 64 ounces or more of water and/or herbal tea instead of sweetened beverages, fruit juices, diet sodas, coffee or alcohol.”

If these steps aren’t enough to resolve most of your seasonal allergy symptoms, you may need to talk to your doctor.

“Your health care practitioner can help identify triggers, provide additional lifestyle support, and possibly prescribe a medication,” Dr. Bauer says. “Also, since we’re still in the era of COVID-19, it’s important to get tested if you’re having ‘allergy’ symptoms for the first time, especially if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or if you have traveled or been in a large crowd recently.”

How to Recognize When It’s More Than Allergies

Dr. Bauer says sometimes what initially appeared to be allergy symptoms may actually be something more

serious. She recommends seeking urgent care

if you experience any of these symptoms:

• New respiratory symptoms in an infant or elderly person

• Fever or chills

• Ear pain or loss of hearing

• Extreme sore throat or spots on the back of the throat

• Worsening headache

• Productive cough, wheezing, and/or shortness of breath

• Frequent nosebleeds

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