The spring after I gave birth to Shepard, I was shocked to find out that I suddenly developed seasonal allergies. Without really any knowledge, I dove into over the counter remedies hoping to find something that would help, to no avail. My itchy wretched eyes were my worst symptom and I think I tried every eye drop known to man. When I called to make an appointment with an allergist, they told me I had to have an eye exam and then a regular doctor exam before I could be referred to them. I was so annoyed with the system that I just decided I’d suffer through.
The next spring when it started happening again, I got the eye exam. No problems. I got the regular exam and was referred to an allergist – only to be told I couldn’t get in until the end of July – by then my allergies were done. I guess the good news is that I was no longer taking random antihistamines by then, so they were able to do official allergy testing. Turns out I’m allergic to grass, ragweed, fall mold, and cockroaches. Grass being the one that feels like it’s going to kill me, or at the very least make me go blind by my own scratching, every single spring and summer.
Anyway, it’s taken me seven years of deadly Mays and Junes to finally work out all the medications and tricks I should use to keep the worst of my suffering at bay. The problem is that there are so many different components I often forget everything I use from year to year, since I usually only have 2-3 months of suffering. So I’m writing this post mostly for my own benefit so I can refer back to it each spring and know what to do to make myself feel the best I can! But maybe it will also be helpful to other people suffering from the same allergy who haven’t perhaps researched or tried out more than just your basic antihistamine.
My allergist told me that Zyrtec was the most effective over the counter medicine to take. I think by the time I talked to him I had tried all of them and definitely realized that Allegra made me feel like crap and Claritin didn’t help at all. The key is that you need to build it up in your system before allergy season actually starts for it to be most effective. I usually start taking it daily in March, when allergies usually hit me mid to late May. My allergist also told me it’s safe to take a double dose on the worst days. I try not to, but I know I’ve done it on occasion, especially on those days I know I’m going to be outside all day long. Also – buy the generic brand at Costco – you can get a bottle of 365 pills for less than $20. It’s massively more expensive to buy the name brand anywhere else.
Singulair (Montelukast Sodium)
This is my trickiest solution because you need a prescription for it. It’s technically a medication used to treat asthma, but it’s done wonders with making my allergies a little more bearable each year. My original allergist prescribed it to me, saying it’s often used to help with seasonal allergies. The annoying thing is that if you want the prescription filled each year, from the allergist, you actually have to go to yearly appointments. Which seems really, really dumb to me, especially with how hard it is to get an actual appointment. Fortunately, my regular doctor fills this for me each year without needing to see me.
Like I said before, itchy eyes are my worst allergy symptom. The sneezing, stuffiness, and coughing – I can deal with. Eyes that I want to shred out of my face every minute of the day are a little harder to ignore. Last year a friend of mine suggested this brand of eye drop, which I hadn’t tried before because it’s a little more expensive. And guess what? It works! Better than anything else I’ve tried, including prescription eye drops. Fair warning – it definitely stings going in. But give it a few minutes and you genuinely will feel some relief. It’s not the be all end all of eye itchiness, but it really does help.
This is another remedy I’ve found to really be helpful in the last couple of years. It’s also the thing I always forget to take. I believe I originally was prescribed a nasal spray, but it was crazy expensive. Flonase is expensive too, but not as much as a prescription! The doctors actually said that a nasal spray helps a lot with eye symptoms, which seems odd. But it’s the truth! When my allergies were really bad a couple of weeks ago it finally hit me that I totally forgot about the Flonase. Once I started taking that again every morning I’ve been feeling so much better. (It just occurred to me that Costco probably has a generic and much cheaper brand of this too.)
As you can see, I’m already very heavily medicated April through July! But on those occasional days when I’m still absolutely miserable, I’ll take an Allerest, or possibly a Sudafed (I think they’re about the same thing). I don’t know if pollen counts are lower this year, or I finally have everything under control, but I’ve only had to take this twice this year. But it’s good to have on hand, especially when the sinus side of things starts getting bad. My sinuses are usually pretty manageable if I don’t spend a lot of time outside. (Also – this is super expensive if you buy it from amazon, but I’m pretty sure it was only a couple of dollars at Walgreen’s or Target, or wherever I saw it and decided it was worth trying out.)
A couple of times every allergy season I inevitably rub some sort of irritant into my eye that is impossible to get out. It’s so painful and so itchy and unignorable because I literally can’t open that eye up to see out of it. Last year after a particular awful episode, I was doing some mad googling and sent Greg to Walgreen’s to find this eye wash – something I had never heard of before. And guys, it’s pretty amazing. You pour the solution into a little cup, hold it over your eye while you open and close it a few times, and then dump it out. Almost always, it gets the dirt or pollen or whatever out. I felt like I discovered a miracle last year when I learned about this. It’s also just a good thing to use every night before bed if you’re having a lot of eye irritation.
I bought this two years ago when I was feeling particularly desperate. I ran it next to my bed day and night and I think it really helped. Unfortunately, once it needs a new filter it will no longer work. And the filter only lasted that one 2-3 month season. The purifier itself costs $85 and a single new filter costs $30. Quite the rip off! BUT if you’re absolutely desperate, I think this is a good idea.
Other Tips and Tricks
- Always wear sunglasses outside! Seems pretty obvious, but I usually only bring sunglasses out of my car if I know I’m going to be outside for hours at a time. But if I remember to have them on every single time I’m outside, the protection for my eyes is noticeable for sure!
- Keep windows closed! Also pretty obvious, but it’s a hard thing to enforce when you’re the only one in your family suffering from allergies and you just had your windows closed for the last eight months of winter and everyone is desperate for fresh air! We compromise by me keeping the windows shut in my sewing room where I spend most of my day and in our bedroom.
- Wash your face before bed. I’m not always great about doing this, but I do ALWAYS use a makeup wipe. Maybe it’s mostly in my head, but it’s kind of crazy how much immediate relief I feel after wiping all those allergens away from my eyes.
- Cold and wet washcloths are your best friend. Want the fastest and most immediate relief? This is your answer. At least for eyes. Which is always my biggest problem and what I most want to fix.
- Shower before bed. Basically you just don’t want the pollen from your body and hair to ever get into your bed, where you’ll roll around in it all night and wake up feeling even worse. Unfortunately, I’m usually way too lazy to take this step, plus I hate going to bed with wet hair. But when I’m desperate, I’ll do it. I also change our sheets often in summer to try and avoid too much pollen build up.
- Avoid going outside! Duh, right? 😀 June is always my worst month, so it’s the month I sign my kids up for summer school. Because they’re busy a big chunk of the day, I don’t feel at all guilty for not scheduling extra day trips or fun activities in the afternoons. I get away with spending very little time outside every June, and it really helps!
Obviously I am not a doctor and don’t take my word as truth for all. But hopefully some of these tips and tricks might give you a few ideas for dealing with your own seasonal allergies. It’s one of the most fun times of the year, and it’s not worth feeling the misery of just accepting your fate and dealing with it every summer. Take the steps you need to take to make yourself feel at least a little bit better!