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Allergies 101: What treatments work for you?

Here in Victoria it takes about three weeks for most people to realise it’s not a cold they have but in fact, spring has sprung and they have seasonal allergies.

Allergy season here is long and mighty, the blossom drives most people crazy and combined with our relentless April showers and sea winds, pollen really does get up our noses for a good part of the spring, summer and early fall.

Last winter, I wrote an article on Cold Treatments, comparing how different remedies work for the treatment of the common cold. Today I am going to take a look at allergy remedies:

  • Antihistamine: I’ll be honest, I have tried A LOT of allergy remedies, but for the most part, I always go back to a decongestant with antihistamine. Reactine, Clarityn, Allegra, Alleve – I’ve tried them all. Just be aware that there are different ingredients in different allergy medications, and what works for me might not work for you and vice versa. For example pseudoephedrine can have caffeine like effects for some although it is more effective than phenylephrine as a decongestant. It can raise your heart rate and keep you awake, so if you are prone to high blood pressure or restlessness, you might want to avoid the medication that includes it. Talk to your pharmacist, they will be able to help you choose which medication will work best for you and try different ones to find the best fit. For example, I now know that Diphenhydramine works better as an antihistamine for me than Loratadine, so that’s how I choose what I buy.
  • Eye Drops: don’t laugh – I know that people on the West Coast are notorious for carrying eye drops for very different reasons, but for those with itchy and painful eyes, eye drops can provide a lot of relief. Just be careful that eye drops don’t increase your symptoms in the long run. Ask your pharmacist about natural tear eye drops that offer relief without unnecessary medicines. Some eye drops contain lubricants as well as astringents such as Zinc Sulphate. Check with your pharmacist to see if this is necessary for you.
  • Nasal Sprays: you can get decongestants in nasal spray form but again, check with your pharmacist as with prolonged use, they may not be effective. If your nose is dry and cracked, a simple saline solution spray could provide a lot of relief.
  • Neti Pot: I was a neti pot user for years until I realised it wasn’t helping! I just thought it was the best way to go because it was natural. No, I wasn’t brain washed by Oprah, this was years before the neti pot hit the mainstream, but it really has grown in popularity over the last few years. What the neti pot does is allow you to clear your sinuses by filtering sterilised salt water solution through them. You pour water up into one nostril and the mucus flows from the other, then you swap nostrils. This is a really effective treatment and preventative measure for many people. The reason it didn’t work for me is that my sinuses were just too blocked to drain. If you do decide to try a neti pot, make sure you read some proper drainage instructions. I have seen so many neti pots sold by people who don’t actually know how to use them – you have to get all that water out.
  • Painkillers: yup, I’ve popped a painkiller when the throat burn and headache has been too much to bear… you do what you have to do!
  • Wash: sounds crazy doesn’t it, but remember if you are outdoors, the pollen can get all over your clothes and in your hair. Shower regularly to get rid of it! A hot shower with steam may also open up your sinuses just a little and the clean water can help with itchy eye relief.
  • Peppermint Tea: hot tea can help with a sore throat or go a little way in relieving the sinuses. Peppermint apparently acts as a decongestant, and substances in peppermint contain anti-inflammatory and mild antibacterial constituents. Interesting.
  • Wear Sunglasses: protect your eyes from pollen.
  • Steam: you don’t need to visit a sauna, just fill a bowl with hot water, cover your head with a towel, lean over and breathe. This for me has replaced my neti pot action and when I was a singer, my doctor advised I do it every day to keep lubricated. I often add some Vicks vapour rub or a tiny scoop of menthol crystals.
  • Mustard: and if all else fails, eat some hot English mustard (or wasabi). It will definitely clear your sinuses, though you might cry like a baby!

What do you use for your allergies? How effective is it? Leave a comment and share with our readers.

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