Sophia O'Keefe / Mustang News

Ask a Healthcare Professional is a series where the Cal Poly health professionals work with Mustang News’ opinion editor and biomedical engineering senior Neil Sandhu to explore health-related topics students suggest. If you have suggestions for future topics, or short questions about this week’s article, send an email to with your name, major and year. Short answers will be posted in the following edition of Mustang News, and new topics will be selected once a month. Sandhu writes this column with the guidance of Cal Poly health professionals and all information in these columns is reviewed and approved by members of Campus Health and Wellbeing. The information and column do not reflect the views, opinions or Mustang News. Always consult with a healthcare provider before making medical decisions.

Allergy season is here, and if you’re like most Cal Poly students, smelling the roses on your way to class has the same appeal as steering your ship toward the Sirens.

Allergies invade every aspect of our daily routines, even if we aren’t the ones whose noses are turned into a leaky faucet. Two-hour lectures are bad enough without the hollow drawl of your statistics professor being permeated by the sniffs of a stubborn classmate who won’t JUST GO BLOW THEIR NOSE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Thankfully, the kind folks at Campus Health and Wellbeing have some solutions to make it through the waves of pollen unscathed, or at least make them a little more bearable.

Do I even have allergies?

The first step is to figure out whether you’re battling pollen or something a little more sinister. Allergies don’t usually come with a fever, so if you’re burning up, it may be a good idea to take a trip to Campus Health and Wellbeing. In fact, if you are unsure of anything the people over in the Health Center (building 27) can point you in the right direction.


Once you have unmasked your enemy, you need to come out swinging. The first tip we have is to run to the nearest drug store and pick up some antihistamines. Benadryl is usually the most effective, but it might just rock you to sleep, which isn’t going to be a net benefit to you if your goal is to pay attention in class. Zyrtek, Claritin and Allegra are all good alternatives, and may offer you better relief. If one medication doesn’t seem to be working, no sweat, just keeping shuffling until you find one that does. Antihistamines don’t need to build up in your system, so they should work just as well on the first use as they do on the 10th.

Sometimes, battling allergies can seem less like a science and more like a game of whack-a-mole, to which Health Center Medical Director Dr. Aaron Baker from the Health Center has a cheat code: use two hammers. If one antihistamine works well for your runny nose but leaves your eyes feeling like the Central Coast in 2014, add eye drops. Medicated eye drops that include their own dose of antihistamines can be bought over-the-counter, and add one more arrow to your quiver of pollen-busters.

Nasal steroids are also available over-the-counter and can deliver relief from congestion with the same precision as Seal Team-6.

Try mixing and matching oral antihistamines, eye drops and nasal steroids to find a combination that plays together better than Kobe, Shaq and Rice.

Make a change

Now comes the hard part: changing your lifestyle. No matter how much you plead, the good folks at Campus Health and Wellbeing will not write you a prescription for a hypoallergenic bubble.

The first step is to sleep with the window closed. This may surprise some of you, but allergens don’t need a Gold Card to get into your building, so you’re going to have to lock them out yourself.

You should also be washing your sheets often to keep them pollen-free. It also might be a good idea to start showering at night instead of in the morning in order to ensure you wash off any allergens you’ve collected during the day.

Let’s just call a spade a spade: Allergy season sucks. It’s hard to have a nuanced conversation about the sniffles, but if you are willing to seek out and employ the advice available from Campus Health and Wellbeing, you can still have a professional plan to fight back.

If you have any questions about health, care, preventive measures or anything else that goes “cough” in the night, contact Director of Wellbeing and Health Education Genie Kim, or stop by the Health Center for normal walk in hours weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

We’ll see you next month for another edition of Ask a Healthcare Professional. Until then, gesundheit!

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