I have said before that vulnerability is a sign of strength. Through my sneezy haze this morning after a fitfull night unable to breathe, I asked the twitterverse for everyone’s favorite allergy tips.* Tonight’s trip to the coffee shop for the third cup of the day (so tired and woozy from congestion and meds) confirmed that I am not the only sneezy, sniffly mess in Brooklyn.

I am still fairly new to seasonal allergies. They started a three years ago for me and for awhile I thought I was just allergic to my office in North Jersey because I would drive out there and develop a bad sinus headache. It occurred to me it had more to do with the time of year and the density of flowering trees than a dislike for office parks and fluorescent lighting.


Suggestions from the twitterverse:

1. Zyrtec-D: Jessie Dress suggested that it takes about three days for it to really work. I am trying this now, the 12 hour kind, first thing in the morning. Sarah Biz thinks that Zyrtec with no D at night is perfect for her. She finds the D drying. I know I need some preventative sudafed to keep me from getting a sinus headache.

2. Alavert D 12 and Claritin work for other twitter followers. I couldn’t find the former at CVS today.

3. Taking lots of Vitamin C is the suggestion from Golda at Body Love Wellness. She says inundating herself with C is better than anti-histamines. I am still on my grapefruit a day kick and now adding emergen-c early in the day to supplement my nighttime multi-vitamin.

Cherry trees along the esplanade at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

4. Tylenol Sinus. My mom taught me this for sinus headaches when I started getting them. My mom is extremely scent sensitive and has had terrible allergies for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t even start wearing perfume until I moved out of the house, and forget about incense. Tylenol Sinus is pretty much the only medicine that works for my sinus headaches.

5. Jacq from Sugar recommends acupuncture. I know a lot of folks who swear by it though I have never tried it. I am likely to start soon if these allergies stay crazy. I’ll go see Geleni at The People’s Acupuncture of Brooklyn. Everyone I know is going to her and she is reportedly quite good.


6. My friend Sophie swears by Counter Attack. You can get it in the Whole Body section at Whole Foods or from Amazon. It has worked for me to stave off colds, so I am hoping it can work for allergies. I’m using it as part of the Vitamin C assault.

7. My mom also told me about this sinus rinse thing she and her wife are huge fans of for preventing allergies. I did it tonight for the first time and it feels hella weird but my sinuses felt so much better afterward. Right now I am so hell-bent on feeling better I’ll try anything.

8. Local honey. My yoga teacher, Jyll, tipped me off to this for preventing winter colds, but apparently it also works for allergies. You can get it at the farmer’s market.

Sam, my big sis from my sorority, enjoys Lebanese desserts in Astoria, Queens. There is a lot of honey in those desserts, though usually I just have a tablespoon of local honey on my oatmeal.

I am trying to be the kind of person who takes action instead of complaining, so I feel my multi-pronged somewhat scattershot attack on allergies at least makes me feel like I am doing something instead of just suffering.

My humidifier is set up and ready to go to help me sleep a little better tonight. If you’re out there suffering from allergies, consider me your sister in the struggle. Let me know what helps!

*Last year I did a terrible job of keeping track of what medicine worked, so I have all of these half empty boxes I am dabbling from. This past week has proven that Claritin with no sudafed does not work for me. Now I am going to just put that box in the giveaway pile.

5 Responses

  1. whoa, thanks bevin for the advice and solidarity in allergy suffering! i had to skip work today, it’s gotten so bad. i’ve been taking generic claritin every day and using the neti pot. usually that combination is enough for me, but the ridiculousness of this season’s pollen count has overridden their effectiveness. i’m going to have to try something else. best of luck to all of us!

  2. neti pot! neti pot! neti pot! i am one of the converted. and various friends (who are more allergy-prone than me) agree. the coop sells ceramic ones, for not too much- you just mix up some saltwater, and you’re good to go.

  3. Oops. hit “submit” on accident.

    Anyway. continuing…

    I breathe SO MUCH BETTER after using the neti pot. I use it in the shower, because the steam in the shower opens up my sinuses and helps things be looser and more willing to, uh, move around and go place…like OUT of my body. 🙂

    Spas: Wet spas and steam rooms help break up the mucus and congestion for me. I have to be careful, though, that I don’t cough too much while I’m there because everyone will think I’m sick and be unhappy sharing that space with me. Spas are also just good for relaxing when you feel all stuffy and tense. In the Seattle area, the Olympus Spa is an excellent place for this kind of thing. 🙂

    Allegra: My daily allergy med. I’ve been on it for years, and it still works great. I can tell, however, that its potency is less now than it used to be for me, but that’s after about three years of use. If I skip a day, I start feeling itchy almost immediately. (Like, around the time that I normally take my meds.) It used to be that I could skip for about 2-3 days before that would happen.

    Advair: This is more for asthma than allergies, but they’re all very related for me. If my allergies are bad, my asthma will flair up, and then I might get bronchitis and that could turn into pneumonia. Advair keeps my lungs stronger so that the allergies-asthma-bronchitis-pneumonia train doesn’t overtake me.

    Flonase/Nasonex: prescription-strength nasal inhalers. Basically, they’re the same except Flonase has a generic version and Nasonex doesn’t yet. Nasonex works slightly better for me, though I don’t think it’s because of the formula so much as the squirting mechanism on the bottle. I can’t remember what, exactly, these meds do, other than they seem to help my breathing/sinuses generally.

    I also have sleep apnea, and I use a CPAP breathing machine every night, and I am convinced that this helps my allergies immensely. Because all of my air is being filtered at night, I am getting 6-10 hours each day of good, filtered air that is (at least partially) free of some of the air-born allergies that give me trouble. I know most people with CPAPs HATE them, but I honestly cannot imagine my life without mine.

    I also recommend getting a Roomba (they also have Scoobas for mopping). I use my Roomba regularly (like 2-4 times per week) to keep the cat fur and dust at bay. I’m highly allergic to dust, and to my cats (but like HELL I’m going to get rid of them.) These make a HUGE HUGE HUGE difference in my ability to co-exist comfortably with my cats in a studio apartment. Plus I feel like I have a little robotic maid, and that entertains me. I feel like I should be on the Jetsons.

    HEPA Air Purifiers
    Be sure to get an actual HEPA purifier, not a HEPA-like purifier. The real HEPA ones tend to be more expensive, less sleek-looking, less sexy, and more like a window A/C unit you would see in grandma’s old apartment. However, they work miracles to help keep the air clean.

    Mattress Allergy Cover
    These keep the (inevitable) dust-mites from you when you sleep. I suspect they may also help prevent bed bugs? They also make allergy covers for pillows. In both cases, make sure you read the labels and get the ones that are actually FOR ALLERGIES. Some of them are just pillow covers and won’t keep the dust mites away. Often times, the real allergy-preventing ones will be a slicker, more plastic-y material. But don’t worry, it’s not like sleeping on a piddle pad. 😉

    I’ll also mention that I didn’t go out and get all of this at once. It can get pricey. This is stuff that I’ve acquired bit by bit, over years. It’s what I’ve finally found to work fairly well for me, though nothing is perfect. 🙂

  4. I have a combination of over-the-counter, naturopathic and prescription solutions that work for me. However, none of them are preventing my allergies from interfering with my life right now because the pollen count is higher than it has been in decades. Not years. DECADES. Take a moment to ponder that.

    Sudafed: When my regular prescriptions aren’t cutting it, Sudafed is a good back-up antihistamine to add to the allergy cocktail.

    Neti Pot!: I LOVE my Neti pot. It took some getting used to, but now that I have, I LOVE IT. I feel like I am DOING something about my allergies that is not putting some combination of unnatural chemicals in my body. It clears the mucus out of my sinuses, and I breathe SO MUCH BETTER

  5. Your mom is right about the sinus rinse! Even the NY Times says so. Neti pots have been proven in some trials to be just as effective as steroids. I’ve been using for a while during allergy season and my sinuses don’t look a day over 28. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/14/health/14real.html
    You could also try mincing garlic, letting it sit for 15 minutes, then plopping it on a piece of toast and downing that sucker. You might be fragrant but you’ll feel clear.

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