Cigars and Pollen: Some Survival Tips

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Cigars and Pollen: Some Survival Tips

Or, A Few Reasons to Smoke through Allergy Season.

It’s been a long, cold winter. No matter what the calendar says, it feels like it isn’t quite over yet. In fact, as I write this, the temperature outside is just above freezing. But spring is starting to break winter’s icy grip. I’ve seen a few days this month get into the high sixties. The warmer days have been a welcome break, but they have brought with them a tiny menace called pollen.

I live in Atlanta, or as it has been called, “The City of Trees” a nickname it shares with 21 other cities around the world, according to Wikipedia. That means two things, it’s a pretty nice looking city with ample greenery and it’s annually inundated with dense pollen. Depending on the time of year, someone with allergies like myself may suffer inflamed sinuses and sneezing fits, or we may have to squeegee a layer of yellow-green dust off our windshields to drive. (You thought flowers and weeds were bad?) Sometimes both.

Understandably, this can have a negative impact on the enjoyment of your cigar, especially if you smoke outside. Sneezing and watering eyes aside, air-borne allergens can seriously impair both your senses of taste and smell, both important to the full appreciation of fine tobacco. But it doesn’t have to. Here are a few strategies I’ve come up with over the years to minimize discomfort and maximize the enjoyment of lighting one up during the pollen season.

Take Your Allergy Meds
I’m not a doctor, but if your cigars taste right and sneezing or other symptoms are your main concern, taking whatever your legally acceptable medical advice-giver tells you to take for allergies may be all you need. You probably already knew that and are doing it. Mazel tov. If you’re not a fan of relief in tablet form, I know people who swear by eating locally produced honey. The theory is it’ll help you build up an immunity to the local strains of pollen. I can’t promise it’ll work, and it may be too late start with pollen season upon us, but I’ll bet that antihistamine tastes a lot better covered in honey.

Smoke At Your Cigar Shop
Cigar shops don’t always have the best ventilation or air filtration, but they have the benefit of being indoors. And that means less airborne pollen, even if it’s only slightly less. The leather chairs, comradarie (or television) and close proximity to a well-stocked humidor is nice as well. You’re buying your cigars there, why not take advantage of the facilities?

Smoke Indoors
Finding a place to smoke that isn’t a cigar shop is increasingly difficult as smoking bans continue to go up around the country. If you live in an area that still allows bars and restaurants to decide for themselves if they want to allow smoking, then by all means support the establishments that do. In fact, do so even when plant reproductive dust isn’t weighing heavily upon your sinuses. These places are rare gems that should be cherished while they last.

On the other hand if smoking indoors means smoking at home (still legal most places), here are a few pointers to prevent your house from smelling like an ashtray:
– Dispatch of your cigar butts quickly. This is the single most important thing you can do to eliminate potent stale cigar aroma.
– Pick a room without carpet, if possible. Carpet, not unlike tobacco is a sponge and absorbs everything around it, including the aroma of smoke. A closed garage with a concrete floor is pretty ideal.
– Look into air purification. You can buy inexpensive units at many stores, or you can buy a unit geared toward the cigar smoker like the one Mike reviewed a few years ago. Or you can go all Walt-Gyver on it and strap a air conditioning filter to a box fan.

I read recently that there isn’t a magical place out there somewhere, free of pollen and other allergens. Talk about a letdown, I guess I’ll just have to retire in Florida like everyone else. But here’s the thing, pollen doesn’t hit everywhere at the same time or with same intensity. If you have the vacation time (and the money) why not plan your time off for when pollen is at its worst where you live? Sure, we can’t all just up and leave when we start sneezing. But if an allergy map like this one says you’re only a few hours drive from less pollinated locale, a week (or even a weekend) away during the thick of it may mean relief punctuated with the aroma of premium tobacco.

Smoke At Night
OK, you can’t smoke at your cigar shop, you can’t smoke indoors anywhere because your spouse (or Johnny Law) has forbidden it and you can’t hop on the next plane to hypoallergenic Shangri-La. It’s time to hedge your bets. It’s time to light one up after the sun goes down. Why? Because the sun has what plants crave: light and heat. When plants have light and heat they spew their tiny reproductive powder into the air. When the sun goes down they stop, and all that sneeze dust settles to the earth. You, on the other hand, enjoy the sun but aren’t controlled by it. And you really want fine tobacco. It’s a simple scheduling problem. Let the trees, flowers and everything else the hippies want to hug have the daylight hours, and you can light up once the powdered free love has settled to the ground. I can’t promise a perfect smoking experience, but in my experience smoking at night beats the heck out of burning one midday during pollen season. But watch out for the wind. If it kicks up all bets are off.

Chime In: How do you deal with pollen season?
Don’t be shy, if you have a tip, we want to hear it!

enjoying cigars since 1997

9 thoughts on “Cigars and Pollen: Some Survival Tips

  1. Brian,
    A few years ago I was miserable through Spring and Summer due to allergies. I was prescribed both a nasal spray and tablets. The combination of both helped a little but I was far from relieved.

    On a whim, I picked up a sinus rinse kit (kind of like a netti pot but it uses a pressurized bottle instead of gravity to deliver the saline wash). I was surprised with how well it worked and before long I wasn’t taking meds anymore.

    I was rinsing once per day but these days I only use it when I need it. Just be sure to use distilled water so you don’t wind up with some kind of brain eating bacteria from your city water supply.

    1. Oh yeah, I forgot about the neti pot thing. It seems like a lot of people were talking about it a few years ago. I’ve used one before, and it does seem to help, provided you aren’t already too stuffed up for the water to flow.

  2. Nice article Brian. I do the neti pot thing 2-3 times a day. I never use to get allergies but the last two years; they have been killing me. Neti pot plus generic Claritan seem to do the trick for me.

    I don’t know if it works either but I to have heard that eating locally grown produce (not just honey) that you find at local farmer markets or if you have a pick your own orchard that it really helps like you pointed out.

  3. My allergies are so bad, I have to take prescription medicine. For me the best combo is Nasacort plus liquid gel Claritin. When my sinuses are bad, like every day, I use Alka-Seltzer Severe Sinus. I don’t even know how I function taking all this crap.

  4. Great article Brian. I too suffer from allergies in the spring and turn to nasal sprays and Allegra seem to help. Definitely can relate to topics covered here. Hope everyone has a better season this year…


  5. Brian, as one who went through this for a long time, I would have to put consulting an allergist at the top of my list. I went through immunotherapy (i.e. allergy shots), and have had no problems since. That would be going on at least 20 years since the conclusion of the regimen, although I realize that is not the norm. i have lot of friends with allergy problems who balk at the idea of having to commit to a drawn out process, but for me, it has been well worth it. Most of these past years I have not had to buy a single package of antihistamines.

    The nasal irrigation is a good idea, and was also part of the regimen, but in lieu of the neti pot, you could simply use one of those bulb type things that they use for sucking up baby snot (forgot what they call them). The one I use is actually a larger version of that. A simple homemade saline solution of 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. baking soda to 1 cup of warm water is the norm, I believe.

    Lastly, DO NOT use OTC nasal sprays on a regular basis. They are intended for temporary relief only, and can actually foster a physical dependence on them, which will only lead to a vicious cycle.

    A very timely post, and judging from the responses, one that hits home for a large number of people.

    1. I’ve heard people talk about allergy shots, but not in very long time. And until now, I don’t think I’ve ever heard from someone who actually went through the process, so I was skeptical. You mention that it’s a drawn out process, how long did it take? Any idea what the cost of the whole thing was?

      1. It was so long ago, I can’t remember exactly how long it took to complete the regimen. Probably three years, maybe longer. No recollection of the cost, but it was mostly covered by insurance. It was well worth it for me, but of course, I can’t guarantee that it will work for everyone. If the allergies are really bothersome, I would definitely ask my doctor for a referral to a specialist.

        Here’s some info that might help:

  6. Thanks for the suggestions. Pollen is always a killer for me. Never am able to enjoy a nice stogie outdoors when it starts to fall. I’m sure the other allergic smokers will appreciate this post. Much appreciated!

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