Spring is simultaneously the best and worst time of year for me. I love how great it feels to be outside again, to see all the trees and flowers budding and blossoming, and I especially love how the extra hour(s) of sunlight make me so much more productive. But..unfortunately, Spring is also the worst time of year for my Crohn's. I have terrible seasonal allergies that trigger a flare-up that lasts for weeks and leaves me feeling like a mess. It took me years to make the connection that my allergies were affecting my Crohn's but after a little bit of research I learned that this is super common and I actually don't have it that bad considering that Spring time is my only hard season, some people suffer 9 months out of the year from Seasonal Allergy complications.
Crohn's suffers are more likely to not only have allergies but to have a heightened inflammatory response to their allergies which leads to flare-ups. I have learned a few tricks that make this time of year a little less painful - some of them are easy - others require a little more forethought. I wish I could tell you that my tricks make Spring enjoyable but in the spirit of honesty, they make it bearable.
Okay Trick #1 - Keep yourself clean. Every time you go outside and come back in - wash your hands. Do not touch any part of your body with your hands unless they've just been washed. Change your clothes regularly. Wash all clothes that you've worn outside the house - even if they don't look dirty! When you're done going outside for the day - take a shower. DO NOT GO BACK OUTSIDE ONCE YOU'VE SHOWERED. If you do, take another one. If you wear contacts, take them out each day as soon as you possibly can. All of this may sound a little crazy but it works.
Trick #2 - Keep your house clean. I'm already a pretty tidy person but in the Spring I definitely have to kick it up another notch. Try to wash your bedding every few days. Vacuum and dust on a daily basis, if you have an indoor/outdoor pet then you really need to make this a priority. Change the towels in your bathroom on a daily basis. If you have air-conditioning, now is the time to run it. KEEP YOUR WINDOWS AND DOORS CLOSED!
Trick #3 - Ramp up the amount of anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. Fermented foods, berries, fatty foods (the good kind), leafy greens, nuts, whole grains, colorful vegetables, etc. Try to avoid excessive amounts of sugar, alcohol, dairy, and coffee.
Trick #4 - This one may seem like a no-brainer but.. take allergy medicine! I swear by Zyrtec - it doesn't last 24 hours for me but it definitely helps. The thing about allergy medicine is, you need to let it build up in your system, so..if you know that a certain time of year causes you distress, start taking allergy medicine a few months beforehand. I also take Benadryl, normally in the evenings because it makes me sleepy, but it really helps especially if I've been outside all day or if I'm having a bad allergy "attack" - can't stop sneezing, itchy eyes, etc. Allergy medicine dries you out so another thing you need to do is drink a ton of water. I tend to double my normal intake - not just because of the allergy medicine - this time of year leaves me spending a couple of hours in the bathroom every morning and I have to make sure I don't get dehydrated.
Trick #5 - This trick applies not only to flare-ups during allergy season but to flare-ups in general. Try to keep on a little bit of extra weight when you are on a good streak with your Crohn's. When I'm having a bad flare-up that lasts for more than a week, I tend to drop 10-15 pounds. If I'm at my "normal" weight when this happens - then I start to look like a skeleton. If I've been able to pack on extra 5-10 pounds when my Crohn's is under control - the weight loss from a flare-up doesn't seem quite so bad.
Trick # 6 - If you're able to, try to schedule your day around your flare-up. Mornings are the worst time of day for me, I normally try to hold off any activities until 2-3 hours after I wake up. When I had to be at work at 8 or 9 AM - this was a little bit trickier - I'd just have to make sure that I was waking up early enough not to feel panicked if I get stuck in the bathroom for an hour. Or, if things were really bad, I'd have to call my boss and let them know the situation and that I would be in to work as soon as possible. I know that not everyone has the luxury of making their own schedule and I'm sure if you add children to the mix, it's even harder, but if you can give yourself time when you need it - it really helps.
Here's a link to an article by Everyday Health on Crohn's Disease and Seasonal Changes.