This content was co-created with Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A.
My allergies stink. They were bad growing up in Florida. They were bad when I went to college in Virginia. And they’re bad here in Charlotte — our city is one of the worst in the country for allergy sufferers.
Good news is that I’ve become smarter about managing my allergies. I would describe myself as an allergy nerd. At least I think I am.
What am I allergic to? Everything. When I’ve had the allergy prick test done, I literally react to everything and I want to take a rake to the area that they’ve tested. I’m especially allergic to trees and grass. I’ve done the shots and I take an allergy pill and nasal spray daily during the spring and fall.
One thing I’ve learned about allergies is that it’s all about management. Small things matter.
I’m an allergy nerd, but to be honest — I haven’t seen a doctor in a while. I wanted to figure out whether what I’m doing to manage my allergies is correct, or if I’m just a crazy person.
Here are my 7 allergy management practices and a quick assessment from Dr. Hunter Hoover on each.
(1) I use a hypoallergenic pillow case.
We have four pillows on our bed and I always get unreasonably upset when my wife tries to take my hypoallergenic pillow. I’ve heard that pillow cases can be carriers for allergens and since my face is on it, it made sense for me to invest in one.
Dr. Hoover’s assessment: Dust mites are creatures that live in your pillow and mattress. Mite-proof encasings around your mattress and pillow are more beneficial than any particular pillowcase.
(2) I have an air purifier next to my bed blowing pure air on my face.
Dr. Hoover’s assessment: Free-standing air purifiers have been proven to reduce the amount of allergens in the air. They filter all the air in the room, so you do not have to get as intimate with the air filter as you do.
(3) I wash my hair each night before bed during seasonal allergy season.
I heard that pollen can stick to hair, so I shower each night so that I don’t get pollen in the bed. Haha, I know I sound crazy.
Dr. Hoover’s assessment: Showering at night may make you more appealing to your spouse, but the actual clinical benefit for your allergies is likely limited.
(4) I take both an oral allergy pill and nasal spray, once daily.
I go with Allegra and Flonase. I’m pretty sure they do different things, but honestly I’m not 100% sure. I typically start taking them two weeks before seasonal allergy season starts because I think they take a while to ramp up.
Dr. Hoover’s assessment: Nasal steroid sprays like Flonase and Nasacort, used on a daily basis, are incredibly effective, relatively safe and not addictive. They are so good that adding in an antihistamine like Claritin, Allegra or Zyrtec provides no additional benefit.
(5) I eat local honey a few times each week.
It sounds insane, but it tastes good anyways, so whatever. I use a syrup which has elderberry in it too. I don’t even know what an elderberry is, but it sounds wise and healthy.
Dr. Hoover’s assessment: Continue to eat honey for its taste but not for allergy relief. The bees are buzzing around flowers that do not actually cause allergy symptoms.
(6) I buy premium air filters for my HVAC system.
I’m a baller when it comes to air filters. I’ll walk into the hardware store and just literally buy the most expensive filters that I can find.
Dr. Hoover’s assessment: I personally use 3M Filtrete allergen filters. It seems worth the investment to filter pollens and not just dirt.
(7) I shut all of our doors and windows like a lunatic.
House guests: “It’s such a nice day, let’s open the windows.” Me: “Nope, and shut that door.”
Dr. Hoover’s assessment: Stop obsessing so much. Take a squirt of Nasacort, turn on your air purifier and enjoy some fresh air.
I asked Dr. Hoover to give me some additional pragmatic tips for managing seasonal allergies. Here’s what he had to say.
“The studies actually show that avoidance measures are not terribly effective. You have to use multiple different ones to get much benefit. They decrease the amount of allergens in the air but don’t consistently reduce symptoms. Current guidelines instead put more emphasis on medication and less on avoidance measures. If people used nasal steroid sprays every day at the beginning of pollen season, they’d find that more effective than everything else. So get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.”
To my fellow allergy sufferers — yes, allergies stink, but hopefully these tips and assessments from Dr. Hoover will make them stink less.
Have allergy symptoms and need to see a doctor? Visit Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A., an Agenda partner, with 18 offices across North and South Carolina.