Allergies in the Pacific Northwest
Spring arrived in Portland several weeks earlier than usual this year, right on the heels of a very mild winter. I love to see Portland in bloom, and I’m not alone; so many people are out enjoying this unseasonably sunny weather. But the downside to this temperate weather is a protracted, severe allergy season.
The western region of Oregon, especially along the Willamette valley, experiences a long hay fever season. The Pacific Northwest has some of the highest levels of grass and tree pollen nationwide. Tree pollen is an issue from early spring (this year starting in January) through April or May, and grass pollen is highest from May through July or August. Weed pollen then pops up in late summer and can last until September or October. That is a solid 9-10 months of pollen allergy season! Not to mention that many people suffer from mold allergies in the fall and winter. Allergy management can be a year round endeavor for some people.
What can you do about allergies?
There are two main hay fever management options if you seek seasonal allergy care from your doctor. First, your doctor will typically recommend an over the counter allergy medicine like Claritin or Zyrtec. If your allergies are especially debilitating you may be referred to an allergy clinic for series of allergy shots, which can be a 10-24 month process.
In addition to allergy medications and injections, Chinese medicine can help reduce the severity of your allergies as well as reduce allergic symptoms. To reduce the severity of allergies, acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy should be started six months prior to your peak allergy season. If you usually suffer from allergies most in May-June, then treatment should ideally begin in November. This phase of the treatment will focus on regulating immune response so that your immune system is less likely react to pollen.
If you’ve missed the window to start treatment six months prior, acupuncture and herbal therapy can still be used to regulate immune response and reduce allergic symptoms like runny nose, eye irritation, and sore throat. Acupuncture can be safely combined with OTC allergy medications and allergy shots at any time to aid in the efficacy of these treatments. Chinese herbal therapy is sometimes combined with allergy medications as long as the herbs are carefully selected; some herbs can interfere with allergy medications, so always consult a board certified herbalist. Supplements such as quercetin and vitamin C may also help reduce allergy symptoms.
Aside from allergy medications, acupuncture, herbs, and supplements, the best option for managing allergies is minimizing exposure. Keep your windows and doors closed during your allergy season, and use an air filter. Wash your clothing and take a shower after being outside, and keep your outdoor time to a minimum. Nasal irrigation, such as that with a neti pot, can help keep your sinuses cleansed of pollen.
Nature is called “the great outdoors” for a reason. Personally, I think there needs to be a balance between staying inside all season long and suffering from allergies. Why not safely combine the allergy tools available so you can get some recreational time outside? In my family, we get acupuncture, take allergy medication and herbs as appropriate, and enjoy the great outdoors.
If you would like support with your allergies, the acupuncturists at All and One Acupuncture in Northeast Portland can help! Call (503) 281-6909 to schedule a consultation today.