Coping with springtime allergies, without medication

March 31, 2010 3:34:39 PM PDT
It's that time of year again. There is pollen and hayfever, and if you have allergies, you know the drill. But there are ways to fight spring allergies without medication.

The trees are getting their springtime cloak of greenery, but some are still flowering. And that's not good for certified trainer Erin Sharoni. She's got allergies, and running outdoors is a problem this time of year.

"I'm sniffling, clearing my throat," she said. "It's harder to breathe, post nasal. Definitely worse when I'm out here."

Pollen from flowers is what's tormenting Erin now. Cutting down the trees is something sneezers and wheezers may be tempted to do. It sounds good, but it won't work.

"The pollen can travel for hundreds of miles, so the trees may not be pollenating in New York, but the trees may be pollenating in the south where its warmer," said Dr. Bernard Feigenbaum, of NYU Medical Center.

So exercise indoors if pollen gets to you. Take a shower upon coming home to wash off pollen grains, and wash bedding often.

Also, rinse your nostrils in the evening with 8 ounces of water and one half teaspoon of salt in a squirt bottle to remove pollen grains.

This is tree season, and it began a couple of weeks ago. In a few weeks, grass will start to pollinate and grass pollen will be the cause of allergy symptoms.

When over the counter pills don't work, some prescription eye drops and nasal sprays may succeed. Spraying the nose and dropping in the eyes puts medicine where it's needed and may reduce side effects of drugs taken by mouth. With them, Erin's found spring more bearable.

"I think it's manageable if I use what he's given me," she said. "So if I listen to my doctor, then it's okay."

Which is exactly the point.

"There's no reason to suffer from allergies," Dr. Feigenbaum said. "There are lots of good prescriptions. There are lots of good allergists in New York. Why suffer?"

Dr. Feigenbaum says that most people don't need allergy shots, but they're an alternative for people who just don't like to use prescription drugs or sprays. The beginning of summer spells the end of pollen allergies for a while. Ragweed allergies start in August.