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Spring Symptoms

Seasonal changes appear to trigger symptoms in a number of IC patients, especially in the spring. Patients may experience allergies and/or increased sensitivity to the environment, bladder symptoms and joint pain. Even before spring flowers have bloomed, melting snow and/or spring showers can bring on mold and mildew. Varying temperatures can also make climate control inside of the home difficult. Patients may suffer with irritated sinuses when the heat is on one day and off the next. Opening windows to outside air can also cause sinus and breathing problems, as can turning on the air conditioning for the first time.

When sinus problems persist, patients usually take antihistamines. Antihistamines without decongestants are known to relieve bladder symptoms in some patients (tricyclic antidepressants, such as Sinequan (doxepin) and Elavil (amitriptyline) contain antihistamine properties, and the antihistamine Vistaril (hydroxyzine) is used as a treatment for IC symptoms). However, antihistamines that contain decongestants can cause bladder symptoms to flare-up. So can nose drops and sprays, cough medicines and expectorants, and bronchodilator inhalers (some patients seem to tolerate inhaled steroids). Because so many IC patients are sensitive to medicines, it's often necessary for them to use prevention and alternative treatments.

Prevention and Alternative Treatments for Spring Symptoms:

  • Steam used two to three times a day is actually be very effective for nasal and lung congestion. The easiest way to steam is to sit on a chair and lean over a sink of hot water with a towel over the head.

  • Hot soup and weak tea (if tolerated) can also relax and open nasal passages.

  • Nasal irrigation with baking soda and warm water can help to promote healthy mucous membranes. Either a syringe (ask your pharmacist) or a Naso cup can be used for rinsing. See resources at the end of this list. Nasal irrigation is only intended for mild nasal congestion, and should be avoided when sinuses are infected or inflamed.

  • The nasal ointment Boroleum can be swabbed into the nostrils to relieve dry nasal tissue. Boroleum is a petroleum product and contains both camphor and menthol, which may not be suitable for patients taking homeopathic remedies or patients with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).

  • Humidity should be controlled to promote a healthy indoor environment. Indoor humidity should never rise much higher than 50%. A humidity gauge can be purchased at Brookstone.

  • Certain herbal teas can help to soothe mucous membranes and loosen mucous. However, many of these herbal teas can also irritate the bladder. Safer alternatives include weak tea made from a little dried dill weed. Dill is good for coughs. Dried sage can be used to sooth sore throats. Sage tea can also be used as a gargle. Slippery elm and licorice root teas are very soothing, however, licorice root is strong and not always tolerated by bladder-sensitive patients. General aches and pains that sometimes accompany allergies can be relieved with weak chamomile tea (chamomile is a great relaxant, however patients with allergies to ragweed should avoid chamomile). Tea made with thyme can be used for the prevention of colds and infections. Thyme is also helpful when used in cooked foods and so is garlic, if tolerated. All teas should be tried using only one quick dunk of a tea bag or tea ball.

  • HEPA filters can remove organic substances such as mold and dust. Specialized fumes and odors (toxic pollutants). IC patients should avoid ozone machines for cleaning the air. Some IC patients may be sensitive to HEPA machines.

  • Warm saltwater gargles a few times a day can help to soothe sore throats and coughs (antihistamines should be avoided with these symptoms). Popular cough drops may have to avoided because they can set off bladder symptoms. Thayers Slippery Elm Throat Lozenges and Ricola Natural Herb Cough Drops seem to be bladder-safe for some patients. Look in health food stores if these cough treatments are not found in local drug stores. Always try a new cough drop for only a few seconds. Often a cough drop is not as irritating and still helpful if it isn't finished.


Naso Cup: Isabella 1-800-777-5205

Boroleum - The Vermont Country Store: (802) 362-8440

Exercise of the Month

Neck and Shoulder Stretch

Starting Position
Clasp and secure wrist with opposite hand.

A. Gently pull down on secured wrist and tilt head toward opposite shoulder (ear to shoulder). Hold.

B. Same as "A" with wrist now secured behind back.

Repeat "A" and "B" with other arm.

Lifting chin or shoulders, arching low back and locking knees


About The Authors:
Gaye is an author and IC patient & support group leader who has been involved in IC work for years. In 1990 she published "Stretch Into a Better Shape" and produced a stretching and exercise video for IC patients in 1993. She is a specialist in Aston-Patterning movement and muscle re-education.

Andrew has over ten years of clinical and health care management position. He is currently the Administrator of Maison Hospitaliere, located in New Orleans. Andrew holds a Ph.D. in Special Education, a M.A. of Health Adminstration, M.A. of Clinical Psychology.

They welcome your comments and feedback on their articles at: The Sandlers


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