Waiting out spring as I manage my seasonal allergies

For columnist Kristin Entler, spring brings hope, but also sinus pain

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by Kristin Entler |

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I’ve been thinking about the weather and how it affects the body.

Despite all the beauty that April brings, the warmer weather that signals to the flowers and trees that it’s time to bud again, spring is my least favorite season because it’s the time of year when my sinuses are most inflamed.

I imagine that’s a somewhat unpopular opinion about spring. I assume winter is generally the least favorite season, and I understand why. With nature in dormancy, the environment becomes saturated in an unalive stillness. Winter is a sad season.

Rates of depression go up, often resulting in a seasonal affective disorder diagnosis. Referred to by the perhaps too on-the-nose acronym of SAD, many people with depression find that it flares up in the colder months, when it’s darker and a layer of ice on the ground keeps everyone huddled inside. I’m not immune to winter’s effects; I recently wrote a column about finding places I can safely go to find moments of joy to help me survive the season.

So when I see the pink dogwood blossoms emerge, I feel hopeful, just like everyone else.

Despite spring being my least favorite season, something in me softens when I see tulips bloom out of the dark Ozark dirt where I live in northwest Arkansas. After months of gray skies, cold weather, and two intense bouts of snow — more than I’m used to in a season, being from Alabama — I can’t help but stop and take in the sight of the orange and bright-pink hues of tulips on my walk to drop off a book at the library. 

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The downside of spring

I’ve known since I was little that sinus disease occurs in over half of adults with cystic fibrosis (CF). Even as a kid, I’d end up with sinus infections at least once a year. Usually in the spring. Sometimes in the fall. I missed a lot of school as a result. But I’ve yet, knock on wood, to require sinus surgery.

Still, my sinuses start hurting only a minute or two after I step outside and lock my front door. Like my mom, I’m extremely sensitive to tree and flower pollen. Remembering I have in my bag a fresh, disposable KN95 mask, which can help relieve allergy symptoms, I pull it out and put it on my face, pinching it around my nose to ensure a proper seal to keep particles out and prevent my glasses from fogging up.

Almost instantly, my sinuses feel relief. The ache that spreads from behind my left eye and down the entire left side of my face, that makes my mouth hurt from my inflamed sinuses pressing on some nerve, starts to ease up. I think about how necessary and unfortunate it is that every part of my body is so connected. 

Without my sinuses connecting to my eyes and mouth, the pain might be concentrated in just my nose. If my sinuses weren’t connected so directly to my throat, mucus wouldn’t drain into my lungs when I lie down to sleep at night. 

This particular sinus flare hasn’t settled into my lungs. Using over-the-counter nasal spray and a gentle saline rinse helps flush microscopic annoyances from the back of my head, preventing them from festering into an infection. But short of medical intervention with surgery or, if an infection happens, prescribed antibiotics, there’s not much I can do for this flare besides letting it pass. 

I pull up the weather app on my phone and feel anticipatory relief that rain might come soon and wash the film of yellow off the surfaces, cleansing the air for a few days before spring inevitably continues.

Maybe soon I’ll be able to start unraveling on the page all the difficult, disability-related experiences I’ve been existing through. So I watch the flowers bloom and wait for the season to change.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


Katie O'Grady avatar

Katie O'Grady

I also don't love spring despite all the pretty flowers and greenery. I get burning pain in my sinuses. I have done everything including allergy shots for years. Nothing seems to work. Trikafta has helped with decreasing my sinus infections but I still get burning sinus pain that also radiates to my jaw. I also have asthma that is very reactive to the tree pollen. I run a lot, and in the spring, my lungs get so tight, and I can't take deep breaths, which affects my legs and forces me to stop running. Thankfully, I have only had a hand full of asthma attacks. Thanks for sharing your story. I always felt like no one related to me on the allergy/ asthma side of having CF.


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