Weekly Newsletter

What do we know about seasonal allergies today?

Keep on top of the latest research on allergies and aging, mixing antihistamines and alcohol and how to best expel phlegm. (Yep, there's a best way!)
A closeup photograph of a Black woman with curly brown hair standing in front of a peach-colored wall. She's holding a bouquet of wildflowers close to her face, so only her swollen eyes are visible behind it.

Welcome to the Dr. B Newsletter, a curated healthcare email that delivers vetted reads on whole-body health. Sneezing. Itching. Eye watering. Spring may be beautiful. But for those of us with allergies, it literally overwhelms our senses. This week, we share the latest findings on allergies + age, the dangers of drinking on allergy meds + the best way to propel gunky stuff out. (Yep, there's a best way.) Plus, news about Covid-19 test findings, mifepristone updates + the erasure of those with long Covid.

  • The Checkup: breathe in the good stuff
  • Achoo! aging + drinking + hocking
  • Healthcare: tests + long Covid + polls
  • Dr. B Can Treat: your itchy dandruff!

The Checkup

Why allergies change as we age

A color outdoor photograph of an older white woman with gray-blond hair, wearing jeans and a blue-striped shirt, standing in a field of wild grass and hugging her grandchild, a white boy with long blond hard wearing gray jeans and a striped shirt.

Some genetic components explain why some of us deal with allergies, and others don’t. But life also affects the odds.

Puberty, pregnancy and illness can jolt our immune system + trigger a new allergy. When we move, we may face new plant pollens that unearth dormant allergies. And global warming encourages plants to grow in regions they never have before.

There’s nothing we can do to prevent a new allergy. But lucky for us, it’s as (or more) common to stop being allergic to something as we age. Up to 80% of kids grow out of milk or egg allergies by age 10. In middle age, our immune response starts to slow. This means we’re at higher risk for things like a severe Covid-19 infection. But we're less likely to have violent allergic reactions.

Get the full scoop on allergies + aging in The New York Times.

Can we drink while on allergy meds?

A colorful outdoor photograph of a wine tasting bar, with a young white woman sitting at front with her brown hair pulled up, wearing a jean jacket and sunglasses, smiling as she holds a glad of wine and looks off camera.

An extended allergy season means we’re medicating for longer swaths of time. What happens if we’re antihistamined up + drink?

Well + Good digs into the issue.

Most antihistamine medications have side effects like dizziness, headaches and drowsiness—which also happen when we drink. Do both together, and we run into the danger of doubling the impact. Alcohol contains histamines, too. So we’re pretty much adding insult to injury.

Taking less medication won’t necessarily help + it can take hours (or days) for some meds to flee our system. This makes playing around with timing tricky.

Our best bet? Using an allergy nasal spray. They don’t bring the threat to nothing. But they offer relief with fewer complications.

Release the phlegm!

A color outdoor photograph of a young white man with brown hair and a beard wearing a white t-shirt, leaning out of a green vintage car window and smiling into the camera.

According to Men’s Health, there’s a right way to hock a loogie—and we may wanna know it before allergy season peaks.

Sure, we can swallow the gunky stuff. It’s made up of water, salt and bacteria-clearing antibodies that break down in stomach acid. But if we’re set on expelling it?

First, make sure no food remains in your mouth or throat. Then close your mouth + breathe in forcefully through your nose to pull phlegm into your muscly throat. Make a u-shape with your tongue while pulling the phlegm ball together, then hock it out—preferably into a sink and not out on the ground. (Gross.)

If your phlegm is clear, allergies are probably the culprit. If it's not? Read the article for what causes a horse of a different color.

Healthcare 411

You might want to change how you’re doing at-home Covid tests (HuffPost). Recent evidence suggests that swabbing our mouth + throat can get a more accurate Covid-19 test result days before nose samples. For some, the viral load in our nose remains so low that only an oral sample detects Covid-19. This can be vital in the earlier days of infection when we’re most contagious. Read the article for updated testing best practices. If you have Covid-19, here's how Dr. B can help you get the latest Covid-19 treatments.

Long Covid is being erased—again (The Atlantic). Think you don’t know someone with long Covid? You do. At least 10% of those who get Covid-19 have lingering illness afterward. But mixed public messaging + an American history of privatizing illness complicate things. Many people with long Covid might not realize they have it. Others don’t share the news because they fear social or workplace backlash. This leaves millions of Americans sick without support. Read this nuanced article for a complex explanation of why the stats are so confounding. Plus, why we need to keep long Covid in the social spotlight.

Poll: Two-thirds oppose banning medication abortion (NPR). The Supreme Court ruling last week left mifepristone access in place for now. But challenges to its access are ahead. Almost 65% of Americans oppose laws banning abortion pills—a more substantial percentage of Democrats but a majority of Republicans, too. Read the article for poll breakdowns considering judges, FDA approval + confidence in the Supreme Court. And here’s a summary about how the other drug in the abortion pill is effective on its own + why we don’t have access to it.

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