Spring (almost summer!) has arrived at long last in the Northwest, and most of us are more than ready for a little sunshine. We are all in need of the Vitamin D from sun, and spending time walking or running outdoors instead of on a treadmill is a refreshing change. That lush, fresh green color the West coast is famous for has indeed come to life at last, but unfortunately, those of us who suffer from allergies (as much as we love being outdoors and enjoying the spring), also have to contend with the stuffy noses, watery and itching eyes, skin reactions, wheezing or increased asthma symptoms.

I have had so many patients who are suffering from allergy symptoms these past two months. In the past, these patients have never had a problem in the spring. It seems like the consistent damp weather has led to a different kind of symptoms this year: phlegm created by the dampness. Chinese medicine practitioners refer to a lot of visible phlegm as excessive phlegm-dampness in the Lungs, because that’s exactly what it is The excess phlegm, be it white or yellow is a problem because it causes congestion and irritation in the body, and needs to be cleared out.

To ward off these symptoms and clear out the phlegm, get acupuncture! Plan for weekly treatments, and be sure to take an allergy formula that suits you best (see below for recommendations). By getting acupuncture now, and targeting the Lung, Kidneys and Spleen channels, you will boost your Qi and enhance your immune system so it can fight appropriately. In the case of excess phlegm, the body is overreacting, which causes the phlegm, itchy eyes and general inflammation in the body.

Some tips to help right now:

DRINK warm teas (black tea if you have white phlegm, green if it’s yellow)

TAKE Chinese Medicine in any form- granules, pills, teas, tinctures, (Bi Yan Pian is a common sinus formula, and Nasal Tabs 2 by Health Concerns is another good formula). These herbal formulas won’t dry you out in the ways that a lot of antihistamines can.

EAT warm soups, stews and stir frys. Cold coffee drinks, iced drinks and excessively cold foods can make symptoms worse. Avoid dairy and sugar when possible- they will create more phlegm. Whole foods are the best, so continue to avoid processed and packaged foods, and enjoy the fresh spring foods at the farmer’s markets

WEAR clothes! When the sun is out, we feel that it’s time to strip off winter layers, but it’s important we continue to keep our bodies warm. We don’t want phlegm-inducing colds making the allergy symptoms worse.

HYDROTHERAPY for your nasal sinus passages (a technique was recommended to me by Dr Igor Schwartzman). Take a warm washcloth, and soak it in warm to hot water (be careful not to burn yourself). Place the cloth over the sinus pain areas for 2 minutes, then take another washcloth and soak it in cold water. Hold it in the same place for 30 seconds. Repeat this two more times, and up to three times a day. This creates movement in the clogged sinus areas, helps prevent stagnation in the sinus cavities and feels good when the stuffiness is causing pain.

Good luck and enjoy the sun whenever it's out!