Updated 12/28/20 to include commentary on cedar pollen and allergies.
Austin is the allergy capital of the universe (or at least it feels that way at times). When you add a Saharan dust cloud or cedar pollen to the mix of COVID19 chaos and allergen levels, as we do experience here in our fair city, it’s safe to say that it is a challenging time to be someone who suffers from allergies. What, in the face of this uphill battle, can you do?
I’m going to keep it short here (I know…promises, promises). No really, though. While I can’t give medical advice via social media, I can share some useful links and some of the reassuring messages I impart to my own patients. So read on, and let’s see if there’s something helpful for you herein.
~~~ Symptoms: Allergies vs. COVID19 ~~~
At the time of this writing, Sahara dust–the inspiration for this blog post–is upon us. (A good, in-depth article on that can be found here). Meantime, though Austin may FEEL like the capital of allergy misery, we are not. Instead, as you can see here, we have a robust, year-long range of allergy seasons, plural. If your eyes are burning and your nose is running and you feel kind of awful, it could be allergies and that’s no joke. You may also be freaking out because you now have to wonder if it’s COVID19.
At the time of this update, Austin got hit by a cedar pollen dump on December 23d that–if local twitter is any indication–felled many of us. And me? I spent five days in bed feeling like my sinus cavities had been injected with acid or bleach. My eyes hurt, my nose burned, and my post-nasal drip felt like battery fluid was dripping down the back of my throat. I normally have a mild to moderate reaction to cedar pollen. The only time I have ever had an off-the-charts reaction like this was the Christmas I was preparing for my final board exam. I’ve spoken to other people who have indicated that their reaction this year has been similarly outsized. Clearly, stress and fatigue (who isn’t stressed right now?) can play a role in severity of symptoms.
As miserable as it is to have an extreme reaction to cedar pollen this year, try to remain calm if it’s available to you. Sleep as much as you can, drink lots of liquids, and be gentle with yourself. You need this. We all do.
I take COVID19 very seriously and you should too. However, it’s best to remain calm and to think it out before panicking. I talk to my patients about the difference in symptoms for allergy vs. COVID (here is an example; another good one, from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, is here). The most useful site I’ve found for updates on cedar pollen levels is here. I’ve also been reminding patients that Sahara dust can be a factor (see here). A great site to keep bookmarked is one that gives you information about air quality, here. One to check for mold and other allergen levels is right here. Though I am not taking any of this lightly and they know it, my patients can feel reassured and they are less inclined to freak out if they experience allergies or reactions to vicissitudes like Sahara dust. (This said, please know that information about COVID19 testing can be found here; if you are in Austin and want a test, look here).
~~~ Holistic Approaches ~~~
Not everyone has tried acupuncture and herbal medicine but I would encourage you to consider it. Now more than ever, having safe and holistic health strategies makes a huge difference in overall wellbeing. An acupuncturist can help you to overhaul your general wellness and that counts when it comes to allergy amelioration strategies. We can also help you to manage your stress and that right now is worth its weight in gold. You do need to manage your stress right now, don’t you agree?
Speaking for myself, now that I have experienced this extreme of a cedar pollen reaction for a second time, both times when I was under stress, I will be that much more attentive to it in patients who are experiencing extreme allergies this year. We always do that anyway with allergy patients, but this first-hand experience has changed my perspective a bit.
Acupuncture can also help to mitigate the body’s inflammatory response. (And no, acupuncture needles don’t hurt. If you’re not convinced take a look here for options). Herbal treatments can potentially be of support by lowering histamine production and by helping to regulate the immune system. An acupuncturist can also help you by educating you about nutritional therapy and supplements. I am never dogmatic about diet, but I do help my patients to discern whether dairy, sugar, and/or wheat contributes to their allergy symptoms. As a practitioner, I espouse the values of traditional Chinese medicine on a broad scale and my training holds that it is possible to cultivate the body’s own natural healing ability. I do talk to my patients about finding their own right balance of sleep, work and play, proper diet (one that does include treats), and other forms of self-care and healthy habits.
~~~ Common Sense ~~~
People feel better when they’re doing something. Sitting around and waiting for the plague to overcome us all is stressful. And yet, it’s incredibly stressful to be running around trying to follow shifting narratives if your goal is to uncover the one (nonexistent) magic bullet to make this all go away.
If you are interested in trying acupuncture or other forms of holistic healthcare, my suggestion is to make an appointment BEFORE you are experiencing discomfort. I am seeing a limited number of patients and I screen new people for not only symptoms but things like travel history and willingness to wear a mask. I don’t know any acupuncturist who would be able to see a patient who is experiencing respiratory symptoms at this time, myself included. And yes, most of us can help you via telemedicine (that I can do), but even so…some planning ahead is wise. The earlier you start doing something meaningful about your health, the better. Now is not the time to go to extremes of any sort. Do something, is my motto, but do something that is useful and worthwhile.
My advice to my patients is that they stay home when they can, that they wash their hands a lot, and that they wear a mask when out and about. Don’t let COVID19 fear make you hysterical and obsessive, I say, but don’t pretend like this is nothing either. Do your best every day to hydrate, to eat well, to get good sleep, and to care not only for self but also for other. If it’s available to you, then remain calm. Knowledge is power, and if you know what to do to nourish your own health, you’re in a good position. We can all, each and every one of us, only do our best. That is what I tell my patients, anyway, and that is what I’m doing in my own life too.
Allergies are an extra pressing challenge right now, but they don’t need to be cause for panic. There’s a lot you can do to protect yourself and your health at this time.
What do you think? And what, as a result, will you do?
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX offices. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
When you are ready to discover what traditional medicine plus a vibrant and engaged approach to holistic health can do for you, either contact Dr. Bruno or book an appointment online.
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Note: Material on this web site site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease, illness, or ailment. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Material on this web site does not purport to identify syndrome patterns.