Allergy relief methods?
May 12, 2009 12:58 PM   Subscribe

What can I do for relief until I get to my allergy doctor?

It's been a bad spring allergy season for me, I've been constantly tired and I have had a low-grade headache constantly for the last few weeks. Nothing seems to make it go away. I take Claritin D daily, along with an RX nasal spray (Astelin) and I use the neti pot at night several times a week.
Does anyone have any other possible relief methods? I can barely get up in the morning and I must use caffeine to get me through the day.
I was forced to cancel my allergy doctor appointment scheduled for today due to work issues and couldn't get one for two weeks.
I am trying to avoid grass and other things, but I had to go outdoors yesterday for a commencement and will have to mow lawn in next couple days (yay)
posted by greatalleycat to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sudafed + Ibuprofen should help at least a little bit. It gives me some help when I need a boost.
posted by General Malaise at 1:02 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some things that have helped me:

- Benadryl. It'll probably make you sleepy, but if you're already in the midst of an allergy attack, it can help calm down your system so that the Claritin can be more effective. I find the new antihistamines are great as a preventative, but not so good as a remedy when I'm already having a full-blown allergic reaction.

- Cutting out sugar, dairy and wheat. Not sure why this works, but if I eat too much of these when I'm having allergies, my allergies feel worse....especially sugar.

- Breathe-right strips at night. If you're snoring more than usualy, you're probably not getting quality sleep. These can help with that.

- Frozen banana pops. Cut banana in half, insert popsicle stick in cut end, freeze on a baking sheet. Not sugary, and makes my face feel better.

- Cotton hankies. Kleenex hurts after a day or too of nose blowin'.

- Meditation. It helps me calm down in general which seems to let my allergies calm down too.
posted by burntflowers at 1:05 PM on May 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was so coming in here to say neti pot, but you've got that covered.

My brother swears eating a spoonful of local honey every day of the allergy season keeps his god-awful allergies from making him completely miserable.
posted by ferociouskitty at 1:11 PM on May 12, 2009

I agree with the dairy thing. I myself have noticed no allergy difference breathing-wise from cutting out other stuff, but YMMV.

I use the sinus rinse bottle thing that those guys make. I believe the doc who runs the show at that co says their experiments determined that the squeeze bottle was more effective (not to mention my own experiments that determined it's far less annoying) to use than the neti pot, in terms of flushing stuff out of your sinuses. But maybe they're fulla crap. Either way, my allergy doc recommends using that thing 2x a day, once morning and night, and even going for 3x a day if you can do it at lunchtime as well. You really can't overdo that.

You could also try acupuncture. While in the past I had little to zero success doing acupuncture it for that, and so just about gave up wasting my $$ on it, I finally found an acupunturist who is able to seriously reduce the amount of reaction I have to airborne allergens with it. The only problem is that her skill is pricey, and for me the result only lasts about a week and half before it wears off.

If you have to mow lawn, you could try any number of mask things (they probably vary in degrees of goodness in terms of preventing you from inhaling the stuff, and I don't have any recommendations on those).

Benadryl is still the winner for antihistame-ing, but yeah, it will likely knock your butt down with drowsiness. Which is why they prescribe it as a sleep aid, as well.

Good luck.

p.s. I'm glad you take the Claritin "D" - at least that has psudoephedrine in it which has a fairly high success rate for decongesting people. Did you know regular Claritin was proven - by the company that makes it in their own tests! - to work in only 11% of people? Sad. I recommend Zyrtec over Claritin any day.
posted by bitterkitten at 1:17 PM on May 12, 2009

Ms. Vegetable showers multiple times a day, as well as making anybody who's been outside and hanging inside for a while shower [family members visiting, etc.] She also recommends cold wet tea bags directly on the eyes.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:26 PM on May 12, 2009

Following up on what bitterkitten said, I personally found Claritin to be next to useless. Reactine (or rather, the store brand of the same medicine) is my seasonal allergy friend.
posted by burntflowers at 1:30 PM on May 12, 2009

I actually talked to the nurse at my doc's office today because it's been a worse-than-average year for me as well. The one thing she told me that I'd never heard before was to wash your face and hair before bed -- otherwise the pollen just hangs with you all night.

Never thought about it before, but it makes perfect sense.

I've tried all the OTC drugs, and they've all pretty much plateaued for me. One thing that does help temporarily, though, is a shot or two of espresso. Basically works the same as pseudoephedrine, I figure. In any case, it clears my head and my sinuses for a while.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:31 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding the skipping dairy - that one's sure-fire for me.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:34 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Saline nasal spray to keep flushing things out when you're not near your neti pot.

And yeah, I wash my face four or five times a day when I'm hurting, on the theory that anything that washes off the pollen will help.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:34 PM on May 12, 2009

Cold, damp towels feel great on my face, especially my eyes, but it doesn't provide lasting relief. Eating local, unfiltered (murky-looking) honey is a great preventative (ideally starting before allergy season), but takes a while to work.

As for showering to get rid of the pollen on you, don't forget to change your sheets frequently, too. Good luck!
posted by filthy light thief at 1:34 PM on May 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

You may not have to wait for your office visit. Try phoning your allergy doctor and ask if they can fax a prescription for Allegra to your pharmacy.
posted by zippy at 1:37 PM on May 12, 2009

Great responses so far! I have some local honey I bought at the county fair last year, so I'll try that. I have saline rx nasal spray, does that work the same as the rinse?
posted by greatalleycat at 1:37 PM on May 12, 2009

Exercise? As much as it sucks to even think about exercising when it feels like your head and sinuses will explode and everything is red and itchy and watery, it clears everything up temporarily. Maybe do it right before bed and try to fall asleep right away while your nose is clear?
posted by KateHasQuestions at 1:56 PM on May 12, 2009

I don't know the shelf-life of honey or the beneficial , but you may want to get this season's stock from a local farmer's market, if they're convenient.

I am not a doctor, but you may want to check the ingredients on nasal rinses and sprays. Isotonic and hypertonic solutions aren't anything more than salt water that is the equivalent (iso-) or slightly higher (hyper-) salt-levels as bodily fluid. I think NeilMed and others are just pitching a salt-water mixture for quick bucks. You can make your own mix pretty easily, if you aren't already.

The linked nasal spray looks like a way to force water into your nasal passages, which can be bad news if you try to force water where it doesn't want to go. The first time I tried nasal irrigation, I used a sports-bottle and ended up getting sick for a day, from spreading an infection further into my nasal cavities. That's why neti pots are generally not too bad - the water just flows (or doesn't flow), you're not forcing it. The warmth and possible addition of baking soda (NOT baking powder!) help clear things out. Also, give yourself plenty of time to drain out - you don't want water lingering in your nasal passages.

As for what KateHasQuestions said, exercise does help get blood flowing, which opens things up for a bit. Sometimes all you need is a jog up stairs, or a few quick sit-ups or push-ups, and you can breathe better, if just well enough to flush your head.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:58 PM on May 12, 2009

Don't know if your eyes have been bothering you, but Zatador was recently released OTC. My pediatrician told me about it when I was there with my younger one, who is just *miserable* with allergies right now.

I normally have to use the prescription stuff, but this stuff has been doing the job. Target makes a generic version (which is what I'm using on myself and my 4yo), and it rocks. I highly recommend it. BTW, you can use it even if you normally wear contacts (yeah, I know, not necessarily the best idea during allergy season) -- just use it 10 minutes before popping your contacts in.
posted by dancinglamb at 3:29 PM on May 12, 2009

When i'm in the middle of a full-blown hayfever attack and need relief IMMEDIATELY, I stuff kleenex up both nasal passages. On bad nights when i stay awake sneezing the whole time, I sleep with the tissue stuffed up my nose. Not a long-term solution (because you look like an idiot with nose plugs) but hey, I've never felt relief so fast in my life. I was amazed at how well nasal irrigation helps with that evil congested feeling, but it's hard to do just anytime.

And get a hepa filter for your bedroom.
posted by lizbunny at 3:42 PM on May 12, 2009

I have saline rx nasal spray, does that work the same as the rinse?

No. The NeilMed rinse bottle delivers 8 ounces of saline solution, like the neti pot, only with a more directed flow. It's irrigation, not hydration.

The linked nasal spray looks like a way to force water into your nasal passages, which can be bad news if you try to force water where it doesn't want to go.

The NeilMed nasal rinse and similar are the gold standard of ENTs here in the Boston area. Seriously, they've been embraced wholeheartedly by docs around here; almost everyone I know has had either their primary care doc or a specialist recommend them.

My allergies are so spectacularly shitty that I have moved beyond the nasal rinse bottle to the real hardcore world of nasal irrigation with a WaterPik. Again, this is being embraced by ENTs here in the Boston area.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:08 PM on May 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

A little exercise can help clear the nasal passages, as well as a nice hot cup of herbal tea - peppermint works best for me
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:26 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Astelin didn't do a thing for me. I've got some of the worst allergies on the planet, and what seems to work best is Nasacort AQ with some Afrin in it. My allergist was able to phone the rx for the Nasacort into the pharmacy when I called to complain that I hadn't been able to breathe at all for weeks. She recommended adding the Afrin to it (apparently you get around the "don't use this for longer than 3 days" thing when you put it in Nasacort) and I cannot BELIEVE how great this works. This plus Claritin and allergy shots has allowed me to have NO allergy symptoms at all, while other people with allergies much more mild than mine are suffering this season.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:09 PM on May 12, 2009

Sidhedevil - thanks for the info, and my condolences for your allergies - they sound particularly nasty.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:11 PM on May 12, 2009

If you're persistently exhausted for weeks and weeks (even on less horrible allergy days) you very well may have a sinus infection. Treat it before you realize you've had a chronic infection for months and have to take the massive antibiotics and minor prednisone that I'm, um, enjoying.

Suffice it to say, I speak from experience.
posted by desuetude at 5:37 PM on May 12, 2009

Oh, as for alternates to a neti pot, I use one of those bulb syringes that is meant to be used to remove snot from babies noses.
posted by desuetude at 5:40 PM on May 12, 2009

Good problem is mostly sinus-related. I don't really sneeze, it just feels like someone is pressing down on my face and I have bad headaches. Hot compresses and some headache pill I was prescribed sounds like my best bets now.
posted by greatalleycat at 6:16 PM on May 12, 2009

I have had a miserable time of late too. Changing seasons are killer for me. I use a daily antihistamine, reduce dairy and meat, and take sudafed sinus/allergy if I get a sinus migraine. I also have a couple of different microwavable bags that I put on my face, alternating with a cold compress to reduce the pain and get the blood moving. Try and get as much sleep as you can, I find I am tired a lot of the time and an early night does help.

Neilmed sinus rinse is the best thing ever invented IMHO.
posted by wingless_angel at 7:05 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Claritin is agreed to be the least effective of antihistamines. The D after its name means that you are also taking pseudoephedrine, which helps somewhat (unlike phenylephrine, which does not work at all but has been put into a number of OTC remedies lately). If you switch to another antihistamine without a "D" after its name, get pseudoephedrine (a.k.a. generic Sudafed) separately from your pharmacist. You have to ask for it and show your driver's license, in most places, these days.

Allegra is more effective for some people, but absolutely ineffective in others. Older antihistamines in general are more effective. Benedryl is the most effective of antihistamines, but tends to put people to sleep. Chlorpheniramine maleate is very effective, also, and is not quite as sleep-inducing. Zyrtec is the most effective of the modern antihistamines.

When your face is really hurting, particularly on one side, chances are that your sinus condition has triggered a migraine. Then you need an entirely different type of drug. Experiment to see whether ibuprofen or extra-strength Tylenol help with it, the sooner the better after you notice the pain. You don't always need big-guns migraine treatments.

Get a prescription for a nasal spray steroid such as Nasonex or Flonase. It takes several days to take effect, but it makes a huge difference for allergies (unlike the Astelin spray), and it helps with the sinus infection, too. I can't tolerate any antihistamine, myself, but the nasal spray steroid works just as well without all the significant side effects.

I agree with everyone else on the non-neti nasal irrigation. The nasal sprays better if you irrigate with saline first, so that they can get to the tissues you need them to affect.
posted by Ery at 6:06 AM on May 13, 2009

Astelin could be a big problem!

I used to use it, until I switched to Flonase (which is the ONLY thing that works for me - Claritin and Allegra and Zyrtec are all useless). It made me EXHAUSTED. I could barely move. And it didn't help with my allergies. I couldn't believe that a nasal spray could do that to me, but it did... every time. I'm not saying the same is true of you, but be aware that nasal sprays can have the same extremely unpleasant sedative effects as oral allergy medicines. (For example, some people, including me, feel like the living dead on Zyrtec - not just tired, but depressed and exhausted beyond belief.)

For my allergies, when they get really bad, I take lots of cool showers, wear a mask over my mouth and nose if necessary (which can be annoying as heck if I have to start blowing my nose all the time, but sometimes it's a great help), make sure to invest in nice tissues so I don't make my nose raw, drink lots of liquids, and exercise. I also meditate, unrelated to the allergies, but it does help a lot - although allergy symptoms are VERY REAL, there's also a mental component - calming yourself down does wonders for the sniffing and sneezing and itching.
posted by Cygnet at 6:57 AM on May 13, 2009

Good problem is mostly sinus-related. I don't really sneeze, it just feels like someone is pressing down on my face and I have bad headaches. Hot compresses and some headache pill I was prescribed sounds like my best bets now.

Ohhh. I'm neither a doctor nor a gambler, but I'd put money you having a sinus infection. A cycle of inflammation is a cruel thing. My primary care doc sent me to an allergist/asthma doc. As it turns out, my main issue is not primarily allergen-related, but I've been very happy with their approach to treatment. I was less happy with the aggressively surgery-happy ENT. YMMV.
posted by desuetude at 9:29 AM on May 13, 2009

You mentioned using caffeine to get through the day, so I'd prescribe: more caffeine. I am definitely not a doctor, but I think I remember reading that caffeine was a natural antihistamine, and since you're looking for something to get you by until you can see the doc, it seems like amping up the coffee, Red Bull, or whatever your delivery method of choice is, would help.
posted by altcountryman at 8:07 PM on May 13, 2009

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