Allergies - Help!
February 15, 2017 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Since last year I have allergies, probably to some sort of tree or pollen because they play up in spring and autumn. I've had a number of blood tests that have ruled out several allergens but haven't yet zeroed in on the one(s) causing the problem.

I take antihistimines, a nasal steroid spray and I have an inhaler for when they flare up but I still feel crappy all the time. The antihistimines make me tired, even the new kind but sometimes I have to take one to get through the day. Even when I don't take them I feel pretty lousy all the time when the allergies are flaring up.

Fellow allergy sufferers, please share with me your tricks and tips for surviving!
(I have a dog but have been tested and he is not the cause.)
posted by roolya_boolya to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You've had blood tests you say but have you been to an actual allergist? And had a full panel of allergy tests, the one where they poke you with the allergen grid? The one with at least 40 allergens? If not, you should. I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that visiting an allergist and getting a proper allergy test changed my life.

Once I knew what I was allergic to, my allergist was able to recommend drugs that actually worked for the things I'm allergic to. It's not all just about histamines. The difference between my life with loratadine and my life with loratadine+montelukast is the difference between being sick all the time and unable to breathe through my nose and having a normal life.
posted by phunniemee at 12:55 PM on February 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

Lifechanging tip from my doctor: try taking your 24-hour antihistamine at night before bed. (Obviously you want the YES drowsy kind in that case, not the non-drowsy kind.) I slept a lot better, I woke up without oppressive congestion, and the allergies stayed under control during the day. Just the simple swap from taking my pill in the morning to taking it just before bed made me go from "functional, but miserable" to "hey I almost forgot I have allergies!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:15 PM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding getting allergy testing done - the full panel. My kid had wicked allergies for years and we threw everything at it to little avail; he got tested, found out he had a severe birch allergy, started getting allergy shots and now lives without needing to take anything.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 1:18 PM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

See an allergist. If you're in NYC, I can recommend one.
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:32 PM on February 15, 2017

Another allergy sufferer recommending skin testing, which needed to be done after three days off my antihistamine, which was the worst part of the testing, really. My allergist explained that skin testing can be tailored specifically to you, and measurements of just how allergic you are to a substance is much more direct. It's all about the size of the pink and puffy area around the skin prick. I have multiple antibiotic allergies, which I wanted to pin down because I had a terrifying anaphylactic reaction to one, and wanted to make sure of which ones I need to avoid like the plague. I also had some nuisance indoor allergies, to dust mites, for example, that I take an OTC antihistamine for. He did additional testing based on trees and plants in my region, as well as other common allergens. Turns out I am allergic to cats! There have been cats in my home since I was a toddler, and I never noticed any allergy symptoms around them, but they are probably incorporated into my sniffly baseline. The allergist's sage words? Nobody ever gets rid of their cats. Let's move on.

He was right.
posted by citygirl at 1:41 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

A note about skin prick allergy tests: it's becoming more common for general practitioners to offer this service, as opposed to referring you out to an allergy and immunology expert. Don't do this if you can avoid it. GPs are getting in on the game because it's profitable, especially if they can get you set up with allergy shots. That's not a bad thing--allergy shots are covered by insurance plans much more now than in the past. The issue is that a GP might say, you're allergic to (A, B, C... X, Y, Z), so let's get you set up with allergy shots for (A, B, C... X, Y, Z). Wheras a specialist might be more likely to say, you're allergic to (A, B, C... X, Y, Z), but (A and X) seem to be your most problematic allergens, so let's start allergy shots for just (A and X) and work our way up from there.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:42 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've found that Flonase works wonders for me, overall. A spritz a day in the morning. IT'll take a few days to actually start kicking in.

But, uh, yeah - you should go to a real allergist if you haven't already and haven't been able figure out how to manage it on your own.
posted by rich at 4:03 PM on February 15, 2017

Contra, Flonase has never done much for me, but Zyrtec has been amazing. Also zyditor I think is the name of the eyedrops I use.
posted by janey47 at 4:05 PM on February 15, 2017

Sublingual drops work well in my family. They are not covered by my insurance but are worth it. Others I know have gotten long-term shots and done very well. But all this is contingent on seeing an allergist.
posted by kerf at 5:32 PM on February 15, 2017

I have cats and cat allergies, and for years tried everything (antihistamines, sprays, hepa filters, etc.).

I've had great luck in the last year with two things:
* NeilMed saline nasal rinse 1x or 2x per day.
* washing my pillows in hot water with bleach

I'm not cured, but much much better, and not having to deal with the side effects from the meds (lethargy, nose bleeds, etc.) is really worth it.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:26 PM on February 15, 2017

Are you in a location where you can find a reliable Naturopathic doctor? Homeopathic remedies cured my seasonal allergies. It took months, but it worked!
posted by leslievictoria at 9:10 PM on February 15, 2017

Seconding what has been said above about finding a good allergist and having full allergy tests (which was the big turning point for me), and also about showering at night. I also had to try a few different things before I found medications that worked fairly well, a couple of which are increased in the spring when I'm at my worst. The side effects got better for me after a bit, and I take them at night as others have said above.

Other tips that help me: washing hands (and sometimes face) well when I come indoors, using HEPA air filters in my house and office, and eating small snacks throughout the day (somehow keeping blood sugar stable seems to help I guess? I'm not sure why — a fellow allergy sufferer taught me that, but it may be psychosomatic). I always remove my shoes when I come inside at home, and also will sometimes in the spring totally change clothes when I get home to avoid bringing pollen in. When I travel I bring my own pillowcase with me, and I generally avoid all things scented (lotions, soaps, fabric softeners, detergents, etc.) as those perfumes irritate my lungs and make me more susceptible to allergens.

My allergies (which include dust mites in addition to tree pollen and a few other things) are pretty severe, though, and I also have asthma, so you may not need to be so hardcore.
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla at 6:05 AM on February 16, 2017

Definitely go see an allergist. I was convinced that I had a pollen allergy, but it turned out I'm only allergic to dust mites!

That said, try a couple different antihistamines. I like Allegra, but Zyrtec or Claritin might work better for you. I take mine at night.

Get an air purifier in your bedroom. This is crucial if you have dust mite allergy, but it's a good idea in general.The Sweet Home has a great guide that recommends a few models and also tells you what to look for.

I also love my saline nasal rinse. I don't use Neti Pot, I prefer NeilMed squeeze bottle, it's much easier. It can be tough to do when you're totally clogged--take a squirt of Afrin before you do it the first time so you can get the rinse to flow through. It's annoying the first time, do it a few days in a row. For me, the third time was the charm, and I've been doing it daily ever since.
posted by radioamy at 10:00 AM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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