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This article text was originally published in Charlotte Living Magazine, 2nd Quarter 2018.  

The warmer months present a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, including activities like gardening that put us closer with nature.  For some of us, however, they represent the return of unwelcome seasonal baggage.  Seeing our friends post pictures of their reunion with the outdoors on Instagram can give some of us a feeling of hesitation.  What is this baggage that comes with warmth?  Allergies.  And living in one of the allergy centers of the country, the baggage that comes with allergies — lower eye bags.

How are allergies related to lower eye bags?  

Lower eye bags can be caused by excess fluid in the lower eyelids, extra fat around the eyes, loose skin, or any combination thereof.  Allergies (and some rare medical conditions) are responsible for the fluid buildup of the lower eyelids, which can come and go with the season.  This fluid also may be responsive to gravity, being worse in the morning (after a night of lying down) than in the evening.  The veins in the head and neck do not have valves, so blood flows in either direction in these vessels.  Anything that increases pressure downstream is felt upstream.  

An environmental irritant (like pollen) is inhaled in the nose, causes swelling of the lining of the nose, making the veins upstream (around the eyes) get congested and swell.  To add insult to injury, allergies make blood vessels “leaky” so the bloated streams leak fluid into the tissues, making a perfect recipe for baggage.  If you are burdened by such baggage, then this story is all too familiar to you.

Simple Treatments for Baggage

Knowing that allergies are the cause of the fluid component of the eye bags is the key, as there are several good (and safe) over the counter solutions can address your concerns.  My first preference is a non-medicated nasal sinus rinse, which will physically remove the irritants from the nose.  Any medical treatment that you do on top of this treats your response to the irritant, but physically removing the irritant is the first step.  There are several products available, and the NeilMed Sinus Rinse is my preference.  Distilled or boiled water should be used with these products.

Using a nasal steroid spray is the next step, as the clean lining of your nose is now still swollen and irritated, and the spray is a good way to soothe and thin the lining.  These nasal steroid sprays were prescription medications just a couple of years ago, and since going over the counter, they have become much cheaper and are widely available.  If you decide to use these, do it on a month by month basis.  My preference for these sprays are fluticasone (the generic form of Flonase) and mometasone (the generic form of Nasonex).

Oral medications do have a role in treating allergies, and my preference is using fexofenadine (the generic form of Allegra), as it is the least sedating, especially compared to the other popular over the counter allergy medications Claritin and Zyrtec, which are both more closely related to Benadryl, and can cause sedation despite their “non-sedating” claims. 

A Natural Cure

The treatments above will treat the allergies, but a “cure” of allergy requires a “re-wiring” of you immune system.  There are allergy shots available for people that have symptoms that are not well medically managed.  These are based on challenging your immune system with escalating doses of the irritant, whether it is tree pollen, grass pollen, or cat dander.  Eventually, these repeated challenges steer your immune system away from allergies.

A natural solution is to introduce a fine sampling of local pollens into your bloodstream by getting raw, unprocessed local honey and placing it under your tongue and holding it in place for 2 minutes.  This is done twice daily for several months or years, and is the only over the counter solution that is a potential cure for allergies.  Eating the honey does not have the same effect, as it is filtered by the liver and “inactivated”.  This is another way to challenge your immune system with the pollens that you are allergic to, and eventually change your body’s response to those irritants.

Other Types of Bags

If you have done everything you can to address excess fluid around your eyes and still have baggage, your bags may be due to more complex causes than fluid, such as excess fat around the eyes, loose skin on the lower eyelids, or a loss of tissue over the bony orbital rim.  These are more complicated to address, and may require treatments such as surgery or a dermal filler to treat the specific causes of your bags.  

Whatever the cause of your baggage, knowing that there are simple and natural ways to address these complaints is the key to liberation from them.