Costa Rica is known as the land of eternal springtime, especially in the Central Valley. As most know, springtime is synonymous with the allergy season in many parts of the world. Costa Rica has diverse climates and plant life, meaning allergens can present problems no matter where one goes. Some say moving to the beach can provide relief but different tropical plant and flower species thrive on the country’s coasts.
The weather in Costa Rica can change abruptly from sunny and warm and then become rainy and muggy. When the rainy season ends the strong winds spread dust, pollen and molds. The combination of these irritants can cause congestion, rashes, and rhinitis.
For asthma suffers, the effects can be more severe. I specifically remember the case of former president and Noble Peace Prizer winner, Oscar Arias Sánchez, who has suffered terribly from asthma since his childhood.
At times allergies can also be exacerbated by dust from the country’s volcanos. Automobile exhaust can also affect many people.
When I moved here 42 years ago I remember that I started to experience allergic reactions. I made an appoint to see a nose, ear and throat specialist called an otorrinolaringólogo or especialista de los oídos, nariz y garganta.
Doctor Gonzáles told me that some Costa Ricans and expats are plagued by seasonal allergies. In fact he said in jest, “If you do not have any allergies now, you will probably develop some soon”. Not all expats are susceptible to allergies but I specifically remember a young Canadian woman who moved here with her husband and two small children.
Soon after arriving she went through a living hell. She tried everything but eventually to alleviate her allergies but had to return to Canada. This is an extreme example of how some are affected.
The good news is that Costa Rica has excellent specialists who have many years treating people with allergies. They will be able to recommend what kind of treatment is needed to keep one’s allergies at bay or under control.
So what can a person do to combat allergies here? Try eating foods with a high content of vitamin C and antioxidants to strengthen one’s immune system. Foods that can help alleviate symptoms include cranberries, citrus fruit, blackberries, vegetables like onions and spinach, black and red beans, red wine, teas and dark chocolate.
Pharmacies (farmacias) sell nasal sprays and antihistamines over the counter to combat allergic reactions. In the States many of these medications that are available here require a doctor’s prescription.
Fortunately, Costa Rica’s private medical centers have specialists who have many years of experience treating seasonal allergies.
Believe it or not? I have heard some expats say that their allergies clear up after moving to Costa Rica.
Some of those that I interviewed for this article said they had allergies when they lived in the States, but they cleared up after moving to Costa Rica. On the other hand, others said they never had allergies until they moved here. If you have had allergies in the past you should definitely come here on a trial basis to see how the climate affects you.
Here are what a couple of expats say about their experiences with allergies in Costa Rica:
“I have lived in Ballena de Osa for just over 2 years now. I never had any allergies in the States other than to a couple of foods. Now, I have asthma in the dry season and it seems to be at the same time that many trees in our area are turning yellow. It is very mild, bearable and definitely worth any inconvenience.“
“I have had just the opposite happen to me in Costa Rica. I use to have a few allergies before I came to Costa Rica. They were mainly nasal problems. Dust and some types pollen used to cause real problems for me in California. After moving to Costa Rica, aI haven’t experienced any allergies.”
“Funny you should mention allergies. The rainy season has been hard on us… this is our third one we have gone through; the first two were bearable but we continue to sufferer prolonged post nasal drip.”
If you have allergies you should not let them be an obstacle in fulling your dream of living here. By taking the advice above you should be able to control your allergic condition.