Got killer allergies this year? Is your IC unusually active and flaring? You can blame it on the “pollen vortex.” As if winter’s “polar vortex” wasn’t bad enough, now many of the trees, grasses, weeds and molds are blooming simultaneously creating one of the worst allergy seasons on record.
According to the Weather Channel, the current Tree “pollen hot spots” are Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Illinois, Colorado. Grass “pollen hot spots” are Texas, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, California, Idaho, New York and Utah. Weed “pollen hot spots” are Washington, Florida, and Iowa. Of course, this changes daily as new blooms occur and/or die off.
Why should IC/BPS patients be concerned? Both seasonal and food allergies are often found in patients with IC/BPS and, due to the presence of abundant mast cells in the bladder wall, it’s well known that IC flares often intensify during seasonal allergy season. So, if you’re having an extra rough year, this could be one reason why.
What can you do?
#1 – Monitor pollen counts in your area, such as through Weather.com’s PollenCast. When they are very high, keep your windows closed and/or stay inside, especially between 9am and noon, when pollen counts are at their highest.
#2 – Use an antihistamine – Antihistamines act to reduce the effect of allergies by reducing histamine in your body. Hydroxyzine (aka Vistaril or Atarax) is a Step Two treatment option in the AUA Guidelines and it’s been particularly helpful for IC’ers who have a history of allergies. It should calm allergic reactions in your sinuses and in the bladder. You can also try OTC antihistamine products, such as Claritin Allergy 24 hr, 10mg, 30-Count Box +10 Bonus Tablets.
#3 – Keep To A Bladder Friendly Diet – Remember that your bladder will be more sensitive during allergy season, thus this is the time not to push it by eating irritating foods. Stick with your safe foods for the duration and/or consider using a supplement which might help protect the bladder wall, such as CystoProtek or CystoRenew. This brings to mind a conversation I had with Dr. Lowell Parsons about patients going through chemotherapy. He strongly encouraged those patients to use Elmiron to provide a protective coating to the bladder so that the chemo treatment wouldn’t be so irritating. I think the same might be true during allergy season.
#4 – Stay Hydrated – It’s only natural to associate water with urinary frequency but when you reduce your water intake, dehydration occurs. Your urine becomes darker, cloudier and much more irritating. Remember, urine is filled with waste products, such as ammonia and urea. If that gets concentrated, your bladder will react negatively to it. Stick with your normal six to eight glasses of water a day. If your urine is a clear, pale yellow, then you’re well hydrated. If your urine is dark yellow, brownish or cloudy, then you’re dehydrated and need to drink more water. If your urine is clear with no yellow color, you may be drinking too much water.
#5 – Try a nasal spray – If congestion is driving you crazy, a nasal spray can help. Usually available only by prescription, Nasacort Allergy 24 Hour 120 Sprays, 0.57 Fluid Ounce became available over the counter last year. If you prefer a more natural approach, try a saline solution, such as Ocean® Saline Nasal Spray 3.5 Oz (Pack of 2).
#6 – Use a HEPA air filter – Some allergy sufferers find it very helpful to use a HEPA air filter in their homes to help reduce pollens in the air, as well as other airborne irritants, such as pet dander or dust mites. I’ve used an air filter from SHARPER IMAGE AIR PURIFIER GP MODEL IONIC BREEZE W/ GERMICIDAL for years and love it!
#7 – Catch your symptoms early – It’s too late for this year but, just like IC flares, it’s important to catch your allergy symptoms early so that you can nip big outbreaks! Act early next year or, if you’re allergic to molds, next Fall when molds start to flourish.
Need more flare management tips? We’ll be launching a new Flare Management Center (and APP) soon!!
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