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Allergic rhinitis while visiting in the spring

Just returned my 2 week trip in Europe. It was my first time visiting in the spring. Unfortunately, I suffered severe allergic rhinitis during my visit. I'm completely symptom free back at home today. I'm one who rarely suffers from hay fever/ pollen allergies. I was surprised to learn that a lot of people visiting from the states share the same misery while visiting Europe in the spring.

I had to visit the pharmacies a few times. They recommended homeopathic remedies and other OTC drugs. They ones I tried only offered temporary relief.

I'd like to know if you have had the same experience and know of an effective remedy.


Posted by
752 posts

Yes, I use the same remedy everywhere, Saline Nasal Spray. I buy the 3-oz. bottle and put it in my 3-3-1 baggy. I keep using it until I can breathe. Research shows that Allergens reside in the nose. We have to breathe them in. The spray cleans them out.

A Target pharmacist recommended it.

Posted by
14278 posts

I was worried this was going to happen to me last June but wound up having no problem. However, I used a neti pot daily with a saline solution for a nasal rinse. I also take liquid goldenseal to use in the rinse water if I feel like I am getting a cold. The travel neti pot I have is plastic and very light and I get individual salt packets to use, taking enough for every day plus about half again as much in case I want to rinse twice a day.

I use this at home as well and it does seem to help, particularly this time of year when the cottonwoods are blowing their fluff everywhere.

This is a suggestion that takes getting used to but once you start using it it is hard to breathe without having rinsed your nose!

So sorry if this is TMI but also so sorry you had such difficulty. My Mom who had really bad allergies had the same thing happen to her when she traveled in England one May many, many years ago.

Posted by
1825 posts

I've had hay fever symptoms pretty severely on both of my trips. BTW...most people just say hay fever. I made sure to stay on the Flonase for a few weeks before my last trip and my sinuses were fine but my eyes looked like I was visiting a coffee shop in Amsterdam in many of our photographs in Italy and France. I should have picked up some eye drops at the funny little stores with the green cross out front. Here in L.A. the green cross means it's a medical marijuana dispensary. European visitors to SoCal must get very confused when they want to buy some aspirin.

Posted by
2916 posts

I have spring hay fever allergies, and generally go to France in the spring. In years that I don't go, I start taking allergy medications a few weeks before I expect the allergy season to start here. Since spring in France generally starts significantly earlier than where I live, when I do go to France I start taking my medication well before I usually would. It seems to work.

Posted by
8236 posts

I once arrived in Rome in May and spent the first afternoon in the sun at Villa Adriana ruins and by the end of the afternoon my eyes were almost swollen shut and my sinuses going nuts. I have hay fever but whatever was there that day was plus sized impact.

For me, I carry stuff that I know works. Homeopathic remedies? They have got to be kidding -- as effective as carrying 3 licorice jelly beans in your left pocket. I carry antihistimines that are more or less non-sedating like Claritin or Allegra and take those constantly (they are 24 hour dosage. for my eyes I have a prescription drop called Alrex which is a mild steroid and actually works -- one day a couple of times a day and the red eyes, puffiness is gone. For the sinuses in addition to the oral anithistimine I use FLonase (FLucatizone) which is now OTC in the US although until recently required a prescription. YOu spray morning and evening continuously during allergy season -- it is not like Afrin or other symptom oriented sprays that have a rebound effect, you can use it for weeks without problems. It prevents the reaction. Saline helps if you are already a mess and helps if you are going to use symptomatic sprays e.g.use Saline then Afrin but only for a day or so until other meds kick in like decongestants or antihistimines.

Posted by
9109 posts

I have rhinitis as well, and have been taking Flonase for about 20 completely eliminate any symptoms without any side effects. Be aware it takes about two weeks for the medication to "kick-in". In the UK a similar nose spray called Beconase is available OTC (in the US it's prescription only)

Posted by
712 posts

FYI - Flonase (fluticasone) went OTC in the past few months. Now you don't need a prescription.
I always suffer from some type of allergy when I first arrive in Europe, but I am using the Flonase here for the first time and will take it with me when I leave next month. Hope it works! Previously, I used Sudafed in the morning and Benadryl at night. This combo of sinus/allergy meds usually did the trick.

Posted by
4600 posts

My wife also has serious allergies and she had problems in the fall when leaves and field scraps were being burned in big outdoor piles.

Posted by
2147 posts

My traveling companion suffered from the same problems last week in eastern France. We visited a pharmacy in Colmar and the pharmicist gave him some tablets (Humex), a noise spray (Humex), and eye drops (Opphtacalm 2%). Twenty euros, cleared up the problem in 2-3 days. He was very happy with the results.

Posted by
46 posts

+1 to what Pam from Idaho said above.

Except I even took an immersion heater (the sort of metal coil you use in a cup of water), via an outlet converter, boiled the tap water, then cooled it, before adding the saline powder packet. (It is excessive but for small nasal sinuses where water is often trapped after rinsing, I don't want to cultivate a new colony of bacteria to cause other complications. Alternatively if boiling the water is just too much trouble, I'd get distilled (not just bottled) water.) I use a neti pot also as a way to rinse out the stuffy junk from secondhand smoke (different topic, let's not discuss).

The neti pot method washes out the allergens (but doesn't stop the body's histamine response), so when you go back outside you might breathe in more airborne pollen if that is what's causing the rhinitis. So...
If you normally use Claritin for antihistamines (I call it by the generic name "loratadine" because the European drugstore had it labelled as such), it was not too expensive there if you are having an emergency (or reaction to something else) and forgot to bring your own from home.

A few other tips:
1. always carry tissue, and multiple packs (also good for toilets frugal with the paper). I like the 4 ply tissue they have for some brands in Europe, if, like me, you blow your nose like an elephant (try not to do this in some cultures). 2. wash your hair before bed. If the pollen was in the air and got in your hair, and then you roll around on your pillow, guess what you just breathed in, and your nighttime sleep quality is going to be? Or wear a nightcap.

p.s. Using a neti pot takes some practice for most.