You’ve waited anxiously for endless days and warm breezes, so you can start hiking, golfing, gardening, going to the symphony, and all of your other cherished summer activities. But then the cottonwood begins to fly, and—aaachoo!—you’re too itchy, scratchy, wheezy, and stuffy to enjoy them.
In the Wood River Valley, seasonal allergies are as widespread as sunny skies and ski addicts. Early summer and fall are the two major sneezing seasons, says Richard Henry, M.D., a board-certified allergist/immunologist at Asthma & Allergy of Idaho in Hailey and Twin Falls.
The common culprits: cottonwood, sagebrush, rabbit brush and grasses.
Staying cooped up is, of course, your best way to prevent an allergy attack. Whenever possible, keep your home and car windows closed, and use the air conditioning, Henry suggests. If you want to exercise outdoors, save your bike ride or tennis match until late afternoon, or about an hour after a heavy rain, when pollen counts are typically lower.
If that doesn’t work, you can try controlling your symptoms with over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal decongestants. Still no relief? Your physician may prescribe stronger antihistamines and decongestants, a steroid nasal spray, or steroid eye drops. And if you get really desperate, you can ask about allergy shots.
If you’re more of a purist, your acupuncturist may be able to help. Many local allergy sufferers have been successfully quelling their symptoms with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, says Joan Scheingraber, L.Ac., a licensed acupuncturist in Hailey and Ketchum. Acupuncture works on the energy systems in your body, which can help relieve symptoms, reduce congestion and boost immunity, she explains.
Likewise, holistic practitioner Maria Maricich Lato, D.C., owner of Quantum Healing Arts in Ketchum, cites about an 80 percent success rate with her allergy-desensitizing technique. She typically uses several methods, including bio-energetic feedback and a saliva or blood test, to identify the offending allergens, then re-trains your brain and immune system with a combination of chiropractic and ancient Chinese principles.
Scott Freeborn, N.D., a naturopathic physician in Ketchum, recommends spring liver cleansing to combat hay fever. “The liver is one of the major filtration centers for antigens, the proteins that trigger allergies,” Freeborn explains. “If your liver is clean, it’s more efficient at processing different antigens, which can help reduce the severity of allergic reactions.” Liver cleansing typically involves taking detoxification pills and fasting on vegetables and veggie juices for about three days. In addition to avoiding dairy products, Freeborn also suggests taking locally-produced bee pollen and a water-soluble form of Vitamin A, which is good for the mucous membranes.
Keep in mind: Starting treatment before the allergy season is in full bloom may help lessen the severity of your symptoms. So don’t wait until you’re already suffering to get help.