Seasonal Allergies - Chicago,IL

Updated on July 13, 2015
J.G. asks from Chicago, IL
22 answers

I take my kids to the allergist but I've never gone. In the last year, it's become clear to me that I suffer from bad allergies. I have a permanent cold that turns into a sinus infection. I just finished a round of antibiotics because my sinus were making my ear hurt, and I'm still not well!

Once all my company eaves, I will go see an allergies and see what's going on, but meanwhile, best defense against seasonal allergies? I use nasacort spray, but what else should I do? I wake some mornings with so much damn snot! I'm sick of it! I feel tired and miserable.

I need wisdom from folks who have gotten their allergies under control. I'm starting to wonder if I need to stop drinking beer and wine altogether to give my immune system good support. I eat healthy: I'm a vegetarian that eats super foods all day long. I also do 20-30 minutes of exercise almost every day.

Also, I spend a lot of time outside, and closing my windows isn't an option. I need air and sun and nature for my soul. So how do I manage this? I have my in-laws coming for three weeks and I feel miserable!

What can I do next?

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answers from Portland on

Feel for you. One of my sons has bad allergies. We finally managed to get them under control. His allergies triggered eczema (which was nasty) so we tried everything. I think we have a variation of what others moms have suggested below.

He does the nasal spray every day (the corticosteroid) to keep things under control.

He takes an allergy pill every day.

We have to keep his window in his bedroom closed and I also don't line dry any of his clothes or bedding.

We removed all carpet and rugs in his part of the house.

And the showers, we just rinse him off regularly.

Once we got his allergies under control - his eczema cleared up, and he just was more resilient overall. So when he does get a reaction now, it's much easier to deal with.

Good luck :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

With the help of my regular doctor and pharmacist I learned you have to find the right medications for you. After trial and error I use Flosnase, saline nasal spray and Benadryl allergy with good success. I have to use them year round. I only take the Benadryl when my symptoms start. The other two are routine maintenance. The spray is used when I start to feel dried out or stopped up.

I have learned to blow my nose early and often once I get drippy. I can never ever sniffle. The more I try to inhale my dripping, the more backed up my sinuses became. I had to learn to pay attention to my nose. At the first sign of drainage and I begin blowing my nose clear. The saline nasal spray helps irrigate and moisten too. I use Ocean Saline nasal spray.

My other go to solutions are hot showers or hot wash clothes. For me they relax my sinuses and alleviate the pain. Not going outside is not an option so I learn to live with it all. So far I am satisfied with my regimen. Good luck.

P.S. The above has worked with enough success I can continue to eat and drink as usual. I understand the desperation to change everything but for me at least changing everything would only make me resentful and grouchy. I prefer a less is more approach with moderation being my guide.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Pittsburgh on

First, make sure you are using your allergy meds consistently. They work best if taken as preventatives, not after you are already miserable. Nasacort in particular is a preventative med and it takes 2 weeks to start working, and that's if you use it every day. It is useless if you use it only sporadically.

The best allergy med out there is benedryl - people go to claritin or zyrtec if benedryl makes them too sleepy to function, but if it doesn't make you really tired, use it. If it's a bad allergy season, I take benedryl before bed every night along with using nasacort every morning.

Can you make 1 room in your house a 'clean room'? Your bedroom is best. Never open windows in your bedroom, keep the door shut, and keep a hepa air cleaner running in that room. Open your living room and other windows all day to get your fresh air and sun, but keep the allergens down in your bedroom so that your body gets an 8 hour break from them at night. Also, shower before bed to get the pollens out of your hair so they are not in your face all night.

In terms of combining meds - you can combine things that work differently. For example, you can use nasacort (a nasal steroid) and benedryl (an antihistamine) and sudafed (a decongestant). But you CANNOT combine benedryl (antihistamine) and claritin (also an antihistamine). For reference:

Antihistamines that can't be combined: benedryl, claritin, zyrtec, allegra
Nasal steroids: nasacort, flonase
Decongestants: sudafed, or any antihistamine with the letter D after it

Pick 1 antihistamine and 1 nasal steroid and 1 decongestant. Just make sure you don't double up in any class of drug.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I use a half a tablet of benadryl to keep my allergies at bay without leaving me feeling too drowsy or overdry. I also make a habit of keeping my hair back, washing my face and hands, and changing my clothes often. I shower 2+ times a day, just long enough to rinse off, and get some steam to clear my sinuses. Seems to help.

Some time near the ocean, or out skiing helps too little grass or pollen in either case.

I love sun and air and nature too, but I find that breathing clearly and not having to interract with people through the vise of allergies is good for my soul. On tough days I shut the windows, turn on the a/c, and hole away.

F. B.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Get good with rinsing out your nose with sailne using a neti pot.
Rinse out several times a day.
It's easy to make your own saline solution - Google it.
(Salt, a little baking soda, maybe a drop or two of glycerin per 2 cups tepid warm water.)

Flonase is over the counter now - so use it.
Use a humidifier in your room at night.
Keep your fluids up and stay away from decongestants - they only thicken the mucus and makes it harder to expel it.
See if Mucinex helps.

Don't know if you consume any dairy products but some people are sensitive to it and have mucus issues if they eat it.

I hope you feel better soon!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I get some crappy seasonal allergies twice a year. For the mid-Spring allergy, only Zyrtec works. For the early August allergy, only Claritin. Flonase never works for me and makes me feel awful, waking up congested. Allegra works halfway.

I take whichever drug works best for me during that part of the season for a few weeks (which is how long that whateveritisthatmakesmemiserable usually blooms) and then I find I don't need it anymore.

I think you just need to figure out which drug works for you. And in order to do that, you need to test them out. First, see if your doc will give you some samples. And then, once you figure out which works best...go buy the generics at Sam's Club, Costco or Walmart where they're cheapest.

Best of luck!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Everything Mynewknickname said. Additionally, change your pillow case to a clean one just before bed at night. Anything in your hair ends up on your pillowcase, so any allergens your hair picks up walking around (indoors or out) ends up collecting on your pilllowcase.

My son has allergic rhinitis (season allergies) year round. He typically had 2 weeks of relief each year (the weeks around Christmas and NewYear's). That's the only time there wasn't something blooming or in the air. (we live in the south, so it's truly year round).

We tried cutting out dairy, to no effect. He took every OTC you can think of, and they all lost any effectiveness. He even tried nasal rinses for a time (he hated the neti pot but would use a canned saline rinse--he was 11 years old).

Finally, we went the immunotherapy (allergy shots) route. It was a long 4 years... but he is done with them now, and has had incredible relief. I can actually tell if he gets a cold now! (he hasn't.... not once). If he has exposure to a lot of something he reacted to (not just walking from the house to the car, but traipsing around in the woods or cutting the grass for an hour or two or something), he uses a handful of tissues and he's fine. He'll usually run take a quick shower, and he's pretty over any effects before bed time.
Before, there were many days I dreamed I had invested in Kleenex. He went through more than a box a week, easily. Probably a half box a day.
Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It helps to understand that allergies are a form of autoimmune disease - basically, the body winds up turning on itself in order to "protect" you from something that's actually not harmful. Once you accept that there's nothing "wrong" or hazardous about the pollen, and that your body is reacting to something that mine isn't, you can get to the root of the problem. We often think that "autoimmune" refers to MS and lupus and rheumatoid arthritis - and it does - but allergies are another version of the same thing. Go to the other end of the spectrum, where cells go wild and take over, and you have any of the many forms of cancer. This is confirmed by endless clinical trials and studies who showing that strengthening the immune system, reducing inflammation, and improving the epigenetic cell function leads to better health.

Science has 2 roles: treat the symptom, and prevent the reaction. In preventing the reaction, you have 2 choices: avoid the trigger, and strengthen the body's immune system so the reaction doesn't occur (or occurs less severely).

The next thing is to decide on your own priorities. You've done some of that, for example, by saying you aren't closing your windows or never going outside. The next thing is, decide what you're willing to do. You can do all the shots and try to manage the meds in combination or in sequence. My husband did both for years, with poor results; he also did the surgery. I skipped the shots because of the outrageous expense and the limited success rate. You can also focus on massive elimination, which is what a lot of diets do (gluten, nuts, dairy, you name it) or by staying indoors and having clean rooms etc. For some people, that's easier.

The other option is to recognize that what you do to eat healthy is not nearly enough - and medical science confirmed this over a decade ago when the AMA said that virtually no one in the US is getting what they need. There's just no way - our foods have far less in the way of vitamins, minerals and trace elements (read: nutritive value) than they did 30 or 40 years ago. This has to do with farming techniques, pesticides/herbicides, rush-to-harvest, and storage techniques. A lot of medical professionals followed this advice (doctors, nurses, nutritionists supplement at a much higher rate than the average American). However, most MDs, RNs, PAs etc. also have taken few up-to-date nutrition courses so they just say "eat healthy"! Contradictory, isn't it?

I was like you my whole life - miserable spring (trees and early pollen), miserable fall (ragweed), miserable summer (freshly mown grass, chlorine in pools), miserable winter (dry air, house dust). I had sinus infections a lot, and chronic bronchitis (3-5 cases per year, 4 weeks at a clip, no sleep, horrible headache from the coughing). I took the prescriptions and the OTC meds, got all dried out, felt drowsy. Later on, when Neti pots came back into fashion, I used those. Spent a lot, was still miserable. Some years ago I learned about epigenetics and immune system support, and now I'm off all my meds, haven't had bronchitis or any antibiotics, and can sleep at night. We had a miserable winter in Boston, and a late spring - all the pollen & trees sort of "ripened" at the same time. So I did have a couple of days when I wanted a little more help - I'd say over the past 6 years, I've had about 8 days like that. I eat everything I want. I've never heard anything in any of my training or professional development that says eliminating moderate amounts of beer and wine (or wheat or dairy or anything else) does anything to support the immune system.

To me, that's easier than all the elimination and shots. I'd rather deal withw the cause than try to treat symptoms.But everyone needs to chart their own course. Whatever you choose, do it right.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I use a neti pot when my sinuses feel clogged.
Unless you're allergic to grapes, hops, or barley, drinking beer or wine in moderation isn't going to harm your immune system.
Youn may need a combination or a rotation of antihistamines to keep your allergies under control.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

My oldest son is allergic to outside. I exaggerate a little but seriously, he is allergic to all trees in our area except pine, all grasses, and the pollen allergy has morphed into an oral allergy to raw fruits, veggies and nuts and he now has some weird pollen-induced sun allergy.

So naturally, he works outside...because he's brilliant like that ;-)

First line of defense is to find a good OTC allergy med that works for you. He cycles through Zyrtec, Claritin and Allegra during the peak of his allergies, which go from late March to early June. Take it as directed on the box every day without fail. Most are 12 hours so you would take one in the morning and one at night. If you like the nasal spray and find it effective, you can continue to use it along with another medication. They are fine to use together.

Second would be to add a decongestant to the mix if preventing the histamine response isn't doing the job and you are still congested and clogged up and feeling foggy. For my son, the "D" in his meds makes a big difference. The "D" part of Zyrtec-D, Claritin-D etc. is just pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) so you can take that on top of your your allergy meds if you don't want to buy a combined product. The advantage of this is that if Sufaded keeps you awake, you can take it during the day but not at night.

Third would be to add in Benadryl if the allergy med is wearing off early. Some people get sleepy on this so be aware of that.

Next is to take an allergy eye drop if your eyes get itchy.

That covers what you can take...other helpful measures are to use a neti pot to physically flush pollen and allergens out of your sinuses and showering and changing your clothes after being outdoors to remove the pollen from your body and hair. Rinse your hair before bed so that you're not sleeping on a pillow full of allergens.

My allergies are more indoor with a bit of hay fever in the late summer and I found that things improved a lot when I removed chemical cleaners and beauty products from my home. By reducing your load of environmental immune stressors, you can lower your body's over-reactive immune response by basically opening up capacity for your body to handle/ignore triggers.

During my son's allergy peak, he takes a nasal spray (Flonase) as directed, an OTC allergy pill-D pill in the morning, another OTC allergy pill (non-D) in the evening, Benadryl in the evening, and Opcon-A eye drops as needed and showers and changes his clothes a lot. With this regimen he still has symptoms on his worst days, but he's functional, able to go to school and work, and doesn't develop any sinus infections or anything else that lingers. Once the pollen disappears, he'd good (except for the oral allergy). It's aggressive, but it works.

ETA: regarding Benadryl and another anti-histamine, you can take them together but it's not recommended due to the possibility of increased drowsiness, etc. So you wouldn't take them together and drive or do something that requires you to be awake and alert, but in a severe allergy situation (like where my son's eyes start to swell up 8 hours into a 12-hour dose of Allegra) the Benadryl can top-off or boost the other antihistamine. His allergist and the pharmacy have both recommended it but it's not something to do routinely.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I'm allergic to 40/50 things they tested for in AZ. It's all environmental, none are food allergies. I hate it. I mean, who is allergic to tumbleweeds, DEAD bushes? ME. That being said, nothing seems to work for me. I do stay inside when it's windy outside and I get a daily email saying how bad the local allergens are and plan accordingly.

My doctor said if I have to be outside to wear a wet bandana over my nose and mouth. I actually did that when I went to my husbands softball game and although I looked ridiculous, I do have to say it actually worked. The key is it has to be WET to stop the allergens.

My friend made up a concoction that ended up working for her. Instead of just taking one OTC allergy med, she mixed 3 of them. I can't remember exactly but something like a Claritin in the morning, Sudafed in the afternoon and a couple Benadryl at bedtime.

Even though I'm allergic to basically everything outside, I don't have too many issues other than a runny nose once in awhile so I just deal with mine. I didn't want to pay the allergist to go she shots every week but I've heard that works. I hope you find something that works for you. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Kudos for getting tested. Since I did this, my "sinus infections" for which I had been treated for years are gone!

For now, I think Mynewnickname has nailed it. Also, your eyelashes are dust catchers for your eyes, so wipe down your eyelashes (eyes closed) several times a day with a wet cloth whenever they feel tired or itchy. Amazingly, this really helps the whole system, even the tiredness.

OOps, forgot to add, my go-to med is Advil Cold and Sinus. Two of these and I'm significantly better.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

A neti-pot definitely helped me.. additionally, drinking lots of water to keep things flowing in the body.... I mention this because if and when you take antihistamines, those dry the body out and while they may stop the mucous flow in the short run (so to speak) :) in the long run,it's been my experience that they dry you out so much, you end up feeling more stuffed up..
Also, I know I have preached about hormones before :) in many of my posts.. but I can say this.. Prior to turning 42, I NEVER had allergy problems... then..... well, perimenopause started and things changed. I don't know how old you are, but consider this even if you aren't PM and when your allergies are at your worst. for me, once my estrogen dropped and I was still ovulating it made me more progesterone dominant for awhile.. that said, progesterone is VERY drying and warms the body and for a couple of years, my sinus were very stuffed up.. I went to two ENT doctors and both said, well we don't why you are having allergies and prescribes meds.. it wasn't until I began researching things myself that I read about the progesterone dominance in relation to allergies.
Now even if you aren't in PM... do you find that your allergies are worse at difference times of months... for example.. mid-cycle, assuming you ovulated, there would be a surge of progesterone and hence, make your sinus more dry up until your cycle begins and the progesterone drops back down..
I know this may sound weird.. but it's worth considering.. I think knowledge is power... and while you can't control the hormones, you can be prepared if you have an idea when your sinuses are at their worst..
also... I sleep with a window open to let in cool air at night, if it's too hot where you live, I know some people use a humidifier in their bedrooms..
lastly.. certain things like caffeine and alcohol will definitely dry you out and make sinus problems worse. if you use either, then try and make sure you offset with water..
For me, keeping hydrated was key..
Oh and if it's any help... now, I am 51... still PM.. but no more ovulating,which means no surge of progesterone.. hence.. guess what.. no more allergies.. I swear, I truly think it's all connected.. at least that is my experience

good luck :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

poor J.. sometimes it's more a matter of mitigating the damage than being able to really get the allergies under control totally. i don't suffer (much), but my poor younger is miserable every spring, and still feels it during the summer and autumn. we took him to the allergist for years for the shots, which did help a little but didn't cure them (and he ended up with fruit allergies which he never had before.)
i think stopping drinking is probably a good step. local honey is said to be a big help. i use it, but really have no clue if it helps me per se.
hope you find some relief, hon.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Why aren't you taking allergy meds? That's the only way I make it through allergy season.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

If you use Sudafed, the real stuff, it will open those closed off sinuses and Eustachian tubes and the whole drainage system for the head. You should have less snot because your mucus membranes won't turn on to rinse the sinuses out since there isn't anything to turn them on.

Use a Neti pot to rinse the nose out.

For me the moister and cleaner I keep my nose the less I get sick. If I take Benadryl for runny nose or congestion or anything I dry out so back and that's when I get really really sick. It allows the bacteria to live inside my head and I have to go back to getting the sinuses opened up and the runny stuff out by blowing and then rinsing the allergens out.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I take a Zyrtec every day year round (Claratin does not work for me). I use a nasal spray (Flonase) when it's really bad and eye drops (Pataday). I hear it takes 2 weeks of taking the Zyrtec for it to kick in fully. I am not sure if that is true or not. I cannot take a Benedryll or half of one bc it really makes me feel weird/out of it/sleepy. I love to be outdoors when I come in after a hike or bike ride and allergies are extra bad I take a shower. I will wipe down the dog with a wet washcloth when she comes in. My stepsister swears she got rid of her allergies (and she was really bad) by totally giving up dairy. She also gave up wheat for other reasons. She has no allergy symptoms anymore. I am not sure where she read about this, but she tried it and it worked really well for her. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

In the short term, the quickest way to get rid of them is a Medrol dose pack of steroids. It takes down your immune system so there is nothing for the allergens to attack.

In the long run allergy shots are well worth the investment if you don't want to react every season.

Like or not, close the windows and run your air conditioner. You're pulling the pollen into your house and it is probably coating all of your surfaces. Wash your hair before you go to bed to rinse the pollen out. The great outdoors aren't so great when you're allergic to them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Your new daily BFFs:
Zyrtec or Claritin or Allegra

There's not much else that I'm aware of that you can do.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Like Christy, I swap out Zyrtec for Claritin, and vice versa.




answers from Washington DC on

My DH will be getting surgery because of re-occuring sinus infections. Please make sure it's not an infection that is so far in your head that a normal round of ABs doesn't touch it. He needed an MRI to find out.

We are a Claratin family. Everyone gets a daily dose.



answers from Asheville on

My suggestion in this case is to see an ENT instead of an allergist. Most ENTs will do tests for common allergens in office. Also, it could be something structural and not allergy related. That's the case with me- I thought I had allergies.Come to find out, I'm not allergic to anything, but have an structural issue that causes congestion and chronic sinus and ear infections. I can take antibiotics, but the infection just comes right back. Allergy meds do no real good long term other than somewhat open up my passages for about 30 minutes at a time. Until I can get my sinus surgery, the only thing that helps is Afrin.

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