Springtime is a great time to see the plants budding, flowers opening, life returning to mother earth after the dormant season. Along with springtime beauty, some may experience the springtime beast, allergies. Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, can be brutal this time of year. Stuffy nose, headaches, nasal drip, itching, sneezing, coughing, etc. can go on for weeks.
There are tons of over the counter medications as well as prescription medications that can help reduce your allergy symptoms. The medications do so by reducing the body’s histamine response to allergens, hence antihistamines. Others help reduce the swelling in the nasal passages by shrinking blood vessels in the area and reducing blood flow. These are called decongestants. Then there are the steroids, or corticosteroids, which counteract the immune system function to reduce symptoms. These chemically-laden products should not be used as a first choice, but as a last resort. Some of these nasal medications contribute to loss of smell, or anosmia. Long term chemical use also weakens the immune system and damages the liver function, which can eventually worsen the body’s ability to cope and respond.
The simplified mechanism behind allergic rhinitis is this: Allergens are particles floating around in the air. The allergens are breathed into the nose, some of which are physically stopped by the mucus and hair that keep debris out. The allergens that pass further into the nasal cavity will come in contact with the nasal tissue. Here, the body doesn’t recognize the allergen as beneficial, and mounts a histamine response. The histamine response increases blood flow and fluid locally and swells tissue. With enough pollen, chemicals, and irritants in the nose, the histamine response multiplies and you get the horribly stuffy nose with the nasal drip.
Before grabbing the medications, first try using a nasal rinse. Nasal rinsing, or nasal irrigation, is an ancient Indian practice called Jala Neti. A baking soda, salt and water solution mixed approximately in a ratio of 1tsp, 1tsp, and 1 cup of water is washed through the nostrils grabbing the foreign particles and flushing them out. The more particles you flush out, the less severe your allergic response is. Makes sense, right? The nasal rinse technique may sound odd, but just think about what happens to your nose when you take a dip in the ocean. Salt water breaks up mucus in the nose, it runs out and clears up your nostrils. It is the same idea.
There are a few methods to rinsing, with some using a squirt bottle and other using a neti pot. (I suggest using a pre-made salt packet. The proportion is correct and the pH is balanced. Besides, you don’t have to do any measuring.)
For those that suffer heavily from allergies, rinse 2-3 times daily during the pollen season. You can also use it when bacterial infection, such as a cold, is coming on. Rinsing will help keep bacteria from lodging in the sinuses by creating a harsh environment for it. Using a sinus rinse is not harmful and is safe for continued use. Though, if you continue to have severe allergy symptoms even after using the nasal rinse, see a doctor.
For more information on nasal rinsing kits, visit:
This should really be the first line of defense against seasonal allergies and hay fever. It’s safe and natural. It’s ridiculously inexpensive if you make your own solution, but still inexpensive if you purchase it from you local drugstore.
My personal favorite is the NeilMed SinusRinse. I like the ability to slightly force the solution into my nose by squeezing the bottle. I usually use it in the shower to minimize the cleanup. Since I use it regularly, I’ve also learned a technique to swish around the solution in my nose by breathing in with the solution. Of course, with time and practice, you will learn how best to benefit from it!