Death by allergies!
March 12, 2005 9:50 PM   Subscribe

My allergies, the eyes, the sneezing, the Jekyll and Hyde reactions to most meds, the more inside...

Portland's unseasonably early and warm weather, while lovely to some, have caused my normally bad allergies to go in hyperdrive. Insanely itchy and runny eyes, congestion and sneezing have impaired my daily functioning. However most oral medications either do nothing for me, or alleviate some symptoms lightly and briefly while I go all Bruce Bixby and turn into the Incredible Hulk. This newfound rage makes me worthy of a tranquilizer and relase to the lions. I'm looking for any recommendations for newer medications (psuedo-anything gets me crazed) and eyedrops; any naturopathic remedies or ideas are gladly accepted as well. I'd love to know what my fellow sufferers are able to pry from their Doctors...
posted by TomSophieIvy to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
zyrtek works for me; claritin didn't. i haven't tried the prescription nasal sprays tho. i also have a hepa air cleaner in the bedroom--that totally helps, and not being outside at dawn or too early, and wearing sunglasses too if i am out in the am.

Some people swear by stuff like Xlear, with grapefruit seed extract.
You should use some kind of otc nasal spray tho, to clear out what's there.
posted by amberglow at 9:58 PM on March 12, 2005

My brother has horrible allergies, and he found some symptom relief just by simply washing the area around his eyes with gentle soap and water a few times a day. Something about washing away the irritants. It doesn't cure all, but it kept his eyes from swelling shut.
posted by bonheur at 10:03 PM on March 12, 2005

I'm lucky - my hay fever tends to be mild. But one particularly nasty summer (years ago) I discovered Dr. Weil's endorsement of nettle capsules and figured I'd give it a shot. They worked amazingly well.

Another cheap trick is to use a saline nasal spray to help flush out your nasal passages.
posted by O9scar at 11:00 PM on March 12, 2005

It may be a bit late for this year, but ask your doctor about anti-allergy shots. They may need to be administered before the allergy season. I am not sure whether Benadryl is Rx or OTC, but it can be helpful.
Repeated washing as mentioned above can be very helpful also by removing a faceful of irritants.
Now, about your cat and dog and your wool carpet...
posted by Cranberry at 12:01 AM on March 13, 2005

Benadryl is OTC, as well as chlortrimeton. These are first generation anti-histamines; claritin, allegra, etc, are 2nd generation--2nd causing less drowsiness than the 1sts, but cost a bit more. Claritin is now also over the counter. Please note: Claritin is the same thing as Clarinex; Clarinex is prescription-only. Don't let the marketing fool you.
posted by gramcracker at 12:08 AM on March 13, 2005

I'm in Portland and experiencing the exact same thing. Clariton doesn't do a damn thing for me. Benadryl doesn't so much relieve my symptoms as put me to sleep so I'm unaware of them.

I've had good luck with Astelin, a nasal spray. It's prescription only.

As far as natural remedies.. A friend says that eating honey from local sources helps. Even if it doesn't, at least it tastes good. Limbo (right next to the 39th and Gladstone Trader Joe's) sells it.

Another friend who used to have bad allergies says that his went away when he got his nose pierced. Your mileage may vary.
posted by Laen at 12:25 AM on March 13, 2005

You might want to try these folks for a Sinus Irrigation System. I don't need it, but a couple of friends swear by it.
posted by Marky at 1:13 AM on March 13, 2005

Try & stop/cut down on dairy &/or wheat. These two food types seem to be at the root of so many allergies/reactions in friends. E.g. A friend who made the switch from cow to goat milk and cut out all cow milk products stopped getting the hay fever that was making her life a misery.

You could try keeping a food diary which includes how severe your reactions are on any given day which may help pinpoint anything else in your diet.

The good thing about this approach is that it attempting to find & act on the source rather than use drugs as a solution.

I have to say that coming from the UK, the combination of diet, allegies & (legal) drug-use of USians was quite a shock. That said, we're probably not that far behind.
posted by i_cola at 1:55 AM on March 13, 2005

My hayfever had previously ranked about a 3 in terms of annoyance but ratcheted up to 11 when I moved to Sydney. I tried nearly every over-the-counter remedy, both traditional and homeopathic. Finally in desperation I went to a specialist to find out exactly that the hell I'm allergic to. Turns out it's mostly dust mites, and then certain grasses a little bit. But dust mites are the big one. I went on a regiment of Zyrtec and prescription nasal spray, along with certain preventative measures. (For instance, top loading washing machines don't get hot enough to kill dust mites. So when I wash the sheets, I have to boil three kettles full of water and dump in on them to get them hot enough. I also have to dry them in the electric dryer and not hang them on the line where they could pick up further allergens.) A follow up consultation determined that I wasn't getting enough relief, so we went to Phase 2: allergy desensitisation therapy. Basically, they inject you with whatever you're allergic to and over time, you build up an immunity to it. I was a little scared, mostly because you have to sit around for half an hour after each shot to make sure you don't go into anaphylactic shock, but my doctors have been great and I haven't had any problems. I had increasingly greater doses at higher concentrations until I'm now getting monthly shots at a level that would've nearly killed me before. Here's the thing though: it also provides immediate relief. It sounds counter-intuitive, and my doctor basically confessed that they're not even sure WHY it works. But once a month I get an injection in my arm, and for a few days it's swollen and itchy and red, but after that my symptoms are greatly reduced. I don't know whether it's because my body's defenses are busy working at my arm and neglect my nose, but whatever the reason, I can definitely tell when the month is up and I'm due for another shot. Might be worth a try if your doctor is willing!
posted by web-goddess at 3:13 AM on March 13, 2005

First, if you haven't seen an allergist I would recommend you do. There are a number of ways of treating bad allergies. I've suffered from allergies for years and have tried a combo of drugs and more natural methods.

I would second Marky's recommendation for a nasal irrigation system. It's a very natural way to clear your nasal passages and sinus cavities of allergens. You might want to read Dr. Grossan's Web site. He's an ENT who devised a nasal irrigation tip you can attach to a common Waterpik. I've tried it and it does work. Many gag when I explain this to them. But if you hold your head properly, the water doesn't go down your throat and it's actually a pleasant experience.

Barring that, a very simple recommendation is to take a shower. Wash off the pollen a few times a day --if pollen is your main problem.

When are you allergies at their worst? Generally, when you are trying to "desensitize" your house, the bedroom is the place to start. General rules of thumb: no carpet, no drapes (dust collectors). Special covers over your mattress and pillows (breeding grounds for those dreaded dust mites). If you can keep your windows closed, that would help too.

Just a few suggestions.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 4:50 AM on March 13, 2005

The most effective thing I've found is Claritin in combination with Flonase, which is a prescription steroid nasal spray. Unfortunately, Flonase is pretty expensive, so going on it full time is probably only an option for those with good prescription coverage.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:08 AM on March 13, 2005

Response by poster: For some background: I've taken shots (my Dr actually suggested we stop the process since my reactions hadn't changed much nearly 18 months after I started), and the sanitizing and sterilizing method is simply impractical. The cats and dog actually don't cause allergy problems anymore. Cranberry, have you been peeking around my NE castle?
I appreciate the nasal irrigation tips; this had been previously suggested to me, and I'll investigate it again. For the meds and eyedrops, the best for which I can wish is just to take the edge off. If you've seen the Daily Show skit with Lewis Black gouging his eyes out, you'll know how I feel about now.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 5:42 AM on March 13, 2005

Everyone I know with horrid allergy and sinus issues swears by Flonase. If it's an option for you, I'd try it. Also, if you (or anyone else) find that the cats start to bother you, try getting the cat groomed. Many times, people are not allergic to cat hair; they are allergic to the cat's saliva which is rather obviously on the cat's hair. My best friend has to wash her cat monthly to keep her sister's allergies at bay, but it works.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:47 AM on March 13, 2005

I lived in the PacNW for a long time and found that my allergies were really sensitive in certain indoor situations. I mean I'd get the pollen reaction outside but some indoor rooms would send me sneezing. One of the things I had an allergy too was mildew which,sadly, is pretty much everyplace in the PacNW. I invested in one of those air-cleaning HEPA filters and washed down everything remotely mildew-y with bleach and then went the no-carpet-no-drapes route and at least had one clean room in the house where my allergies were mitigated, if not totally gone away.

I also recommend Flonase if you have a sniffly/clicky nose that keeps you up at night. It's like an asthma inhaler for your nose. Cutting dairy/wheat helped me somewhat, but not enough to really make a huge difference, though lessening the junk food combined with a lot of hand washing and reduced eye touching also helped some.
posted by jessamyn at 6:53 AM on March 13, 2005

Allegra does the job for me in Seattle, augmented by OTC saline nasal spray.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:26 AM on March 13, 2005

Check out Bioresonance Therapy. No idea if it is mad or sound science but a couple of friends have just recommended it.
posted by i_cola at 7:55 AM on March 13, 2005

well, I suppose it's along the lines of a nasal irrigation system but I highly recommend a Neti (or Nasal) pot. You can get them in many forms. Ceramic was my first but broke too easily so I got stainless steel for around $25. Ceramic is cheaper though.

I love it!

Fill the pot with warm water and about a teaspoon of seasalt. Stir, pour through each nostril while tilting your head to either side. It feels suprisingly refreshing! I've had horrible allergies in the past and to be completely honest, using this almost everyday each morning in the shower for a year and a half and i've had no symptoms. It also can help prevent colds (i have not been sick since I've used this steadily and I'd like to think it has helped with that) and improve your voice and breathing. As an actor I feel the benefits in my voice.

Anyway, I highly recommend this because I know what you're going through.
posted by freudianslipper at 8:19 AM on March 13, 2005

I used to suffer from terrible allergies. You know the kind - everyone around you is nearly as miserable because they have to put up with the constance sneezing, sniffling and so forth. All the OTC/Rx meds just (kind of sort of) masked the problem but made me jittery crazy at the same time.

Since the day I started sublingual immunotherapy I haven't had an 'episode'. I'm certainly not a homeopathic kind of guy and still have a hard time believing such an easy thing works. It did for me anyway.

If you have any questions for me, send an email. Otherwise, my doc welcomes out of town calls. He may even take out of town patients. His website is Family Allergy Clinic.

Good luck.
posted by whatisish at 8:46 AM on March 13, 2005

Dolisos makes remedy sprays for different regions of the US; they have both allergy and mold mixes for the Pacific Northwest. Also, I second the nettle capsules.
posted by brujita at 9:56 AM on March 13, 2005

A few years ago I had a med called Advair - seemed to kick everything with no side effects.

I'd recommend dropping cheese products for 2-3 days and seeing if that helps - one year I did that and it helped a bunch.

also, fun way to go for 2-3 days of utter missery and then possibly a cure is getting unfiltered bee honey from your area. Contains everything you're allergic to... expect to spend at least 2 days in sinus hell if you eat that though.

I have about the same issue with meds you descrobed... so not fun
posted by MildlyDisturbed at 10:30 AM on March 13, 2005

Allergy shots changed my life. I second the flonase (or beconase) and the nasal irrigation. Only downside to the first two is the expense.
posted by vronsky at 1:15 PM on March 13, 2005

I have friends who swear by yogic breathing, others by acupuncture.
posted by tidecat at 1:29 PM on March 13, 2005

Another vote for sublingual immuniotherpy, or allergy drops as they can be called.

I sat through a few hours of allergy tests to find out specifically what I was allergic to and how badly I reacted to each item. The drops are made from the same allergen laden liquid used in the test, but the mixture is unique to me and my allergies. I have one mixture for year round allergens and one for spring. A small vial lasts 1-2 months. They're tasteless and there are no side effects. I take 3 drops under my tongue 3 times a day. It takes about 2 weeks before your allergy symptoms begin to subside. Once they subside you may even be able to only take 1-2 drops a day.

A while back I forgot to order refills and stopped taking the drops for about 3 weeks. I only remembered to start taking them again once my allergy symptoms returned. There's also the hope that with enough therapy my body will build a natural resistance to the allergens that effect me.
posted by Constant Reader at 6:58 AM on March 14, 2005

My hellish allergies have actually mellowed out a lot in the last five or so years (thanks to allergy shots!). When I was a kid my eyes would actually swell shut, and I missed classes because of them straight up through college.

My allergy regimen is allegra-D, normally a double dose (IE the pills are 24 hour, but I take one every 12), however those are a pseudowhatever, so you may not like them. I also will take tylenol allergy-sinus on an as-needed basis, and wash my hands and face at least six times a day. I agree with the earlier post, it does keep the swelling down a bit. I also use either flonase or rhinocort (I had no insurance for a while so my saintly doctor was just giving me the samples he had on hand).

I also eat a spoonful of local honey every day, year round. I did this when getting shots, and have continued since the shots ended.

At one point, in a desperate fit to make it to final exams when my eyes were so bad I could barely walk across a room, I broke into a liquid nasal inhaler (as opposed to the compressed gas kind) and put some around my eyes with a cotton ball. To my amazement it worked and I didn't go blind, but I wouldn't recommend that- I just didn't feel like failing a 400-level class because I couldn't drive.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:38 AM on March 14, 2005

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