A Q&A with Dr. Annie Chern, Medical Advisory Board Member, Tivic Health Systems
We recently sat down with Dr. Annie Chern, a primary care physician, and Tivic Health’s newest Medical Advisory Board Member, to discuss tips and advice for allergy sufferers who are traveling this summer.
With Covid cases still on the rise across the U.S., Dr. Chern also offers tips on what to watch out for and extra precautions to take, so summer travel can be as stress-free as possible.
With Covid cases still on the rise, what tips can you offer allergy sufferers who are traveling this summer?
Allergies don’t preclude you from getting vaccinated, so I strongly recommend being up-to-date on your Covid vaccine and boosters!
Some people assume their symptoms are “just allergies”, then a few days later realize that they have a Covid infection. Unfortunately, by then they’ve already been out and about in public places, without quarantine.
If you don’t typically have summer allergies and notice symptoms that are out-of-the-ordinary for you such as a scratchy throat, it’s best to get tested and not assume it’s allergies.
Can you sum up how symptoms of allergies and Covid overlap, and how they differ?
Initial symptoms can have lots of overlap – runny nose, scratchy/irritated throat, and congestion. Covid or other viral infections typically come with systemic symptoms such as fever, body aches, and fatigue – these can occur with allergies, however, they are not as pronounced or persistent as with Covid.
For allergy sufferers who are traveling this summer, what precautions can they take?
If your allergies tend to flare up in the summer and you’re visiting a new place, be aware of the environment. If you’re sensitive to pollen, select destinations with generally lower pollen counts such as the beach, desert areas, or the slopes.
If you’re driving, keep your windows up, to keep environmental allergens from circulating in the car. Travel during early morning or late evening hours when air quality is better.
If you’re flying to your destination, continue to wear a mask in-flight as a precaution against environmental irritants and Covid. It’s also a good idea to hydrate and drink lots of water during air travel as dry air on planes can aggravate allergy symptoms.
If you’re staying at a hotel, request allergy-friendly rooms. Many hotels can provide state-of-the-art air purifiers, mattresses, pillowcases, and cleaning products to remove harmful allergens and irritants such as bacteria, dust mites, and airborne mold. If you are allergic to dust mites or if certain products like laundry detergent cause a reaction, consider bringing your own linens.
How can patients prepare for allergies, with climate or altitude variations between home and their destination?
Some of my patients who are planning trips to high-altitude locations, such as Lake Tahoe, will book an appointment with me ahead of time. During the office visit, we can look up those destinations together and discuss whether or not they’ve experienced any allergy symptoms at higher altitudes before.
In some cases, I prescribe medications for my patients to take before travel or to have on hand just in case. We also review a list of symptoms to watch out for, so they know what to expect.
I would advise researching weather conditions and pollen counts in areas where you will be traveling in advance of your trip.
What would you recommend for patients who are seeking non-pharmacologic remedies for their allergies?
It’s best to create physical barriers to avoid exposure to allergens as much as possible. For instance, if you’ve been outside for prolonged periods, shower and change clothes as soon as you go inside, to wash pollen off your skin and hair.
Using a neti pot to rinse away allergens from your sinuses can help.
Also consider using a non-invasive treatment for allergic sinusitis, sinus pain, and congestion like ClearUP – a 100% drug-free handheld therapy device with no chemical side effects.
ClearUP is travel-friendly and super portable, and it also fits easily in your purse or backpack. It starts working instantly and doesn’t cause drowsiness so you can enjoy your trip, without disruption.
What final words can you share for summer travelers with allergies?
In general, I recommend planning ahead and being prepared! This includes having a discussion with your doctor beforehand, being prepared with your allergy medicines and treatments, and having a plan to reduce allergens at your destination. Then you can relax and enjoy your trip knowing that you’ve done what you can to manage your allergy symptoms.
Dr. Annie Chern is on the faculty at Stanford Health Care Family Medicine Residency Program. She previously served on the executive committee of the Department of Pediatrics at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose and currently serves as their Department Chair of Family Medicine. Dr. Chern is a graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine and completed her residency in Family Medicine at Stanford Family Medicine Program.