Home > Health > Is there a way to treat allergies without medication?

Is there a way to treat allergies without medication?

Have airborne allergies?  Try nasal washing!  May is Allergy Awareness Month.  Spring has arrived long ago and many people are feeling the effects of pollen and other airborne allergies.  It has become serious enough that watching the pollen count in our daily weather forecast to become a routine event.  Society has resorted to antihistamine medications (ie. Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin) to relieve their runny nose and itchy eyes.   Some have chosen to take allergy shots (immunotherapy) which gradually increase tolerants to the allergen.  Others invest in air purifiers in hopes to lessen the impact and there are those brave few that try to ride it out waiting for the next break in the weather (the rain) or season for that matter.

Before we go on, it is important to see your doctor and diagnose correctly whether it is truly allergies or sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus caused by some kind of infection or agent).  The term sinusitis is a bit complicated because allergies can lead into it and both terms are dealing with the effects of inflammation.

Unfortunately the scientific and the medical field do not know 100% why some people get allergies and others don’t.  There are many theories to the sensitization of the body to the offending agents but none can explain broadly why they occur.  So this piece will not attempt to further explain all the major theories but concentrate more on the mechanism and ways to relieve this problem.

Airborne allergies occur due to the offending agent, ie. pollen, landing on the mucous membrane of  the sinuses of the nose.  This cause the human body (immune system) to react against it by trying to flush it out – thus the runny nose.  There is a concentrate of mast cells within the lining of the nasal cavity.  These mast cells are activated by the offending agent and in turn release histamines to the surrounding tissue.  Histamines and other inflammatory signals causes the blood vessels in the nose to dilate and nasal tissues to secrete mucous.  This in turn can cause coughing seen in some people (in most cases due to post-nasal drip).  Itchiness is the result of the nerve endings being irritated by the inflammatory agents.

So there are two broad ways to attack the symptoms of allergies. One is to remove the offending agent and the second is to suppress the immune system reaction to the agent.

The general public mostly use oral anti-histamines and mast cell stabilizer medications to fend off the symptoms.  Others use nasal sprays that have either steroids or other anti-histamine agents to attack the problem locally.  Nothing is wrong with these medications since they do help relieve the symptoms caused by the allergan.  The problem with medications is that the offending agent is removed from the body even more slowly thus the continuation of more medication.

The nose contains microscopic cilia that beat within our sinuses to get rid of the foreign bodies that enter the nose and out either by the same way or by swallowing.  It is when the body goes into “mucus” overload (due to allergies or infections) that create problems. The mucous can sometimes clog up the sinuses and cause sinus headaches due to the filling up the sinus cavities which normally should be clear with air.  Medication does prevent this overload but for some people the offending agent is not cleared fast enough due to a number of factors – physical, genetic, differences in immune reaction etc.

Another way to remove the agent is to physically aid the body in flushing it out by a nasal wash.  Nasal washing is highly recommended for all people who suffer from all kinds of sinus problems – allergies to even chronic sinusitis!  Washing the nasal cavity with a salt solution will help clear out the pollutants and the offending particle (ie. pollen) causing the allergy.  Ear, nose and throat doctors and other allergy specialists recommend this form of treatment as an adjunct to medication.  Many will realize that once they routinely start using nasal cleansing, their use of allergy medications also drops.  HappyBabyUSA considers this a great method to combat against airborne allergies since it helps to wash away the offending agent and whether or not it is sinusitis or allergies, nasal washing is used in both forms of treatment.

A variety of neti-pots shown in different shapes and materials.

There are two kinds of nasal washing.  A centuries old practice using the neti-pot is designed to wash your nasal sinuses by flushing out water utilizing gravity and a positive pressure system that utilizes an apparatus that injects the solution into one nostril and out the other.  Neti-pots are safe and effective way to provide relief to your allergies.  They are also effective for  nasal congestions, sinus infections, sinus headaches, post-nasal drips and rhinitis of pregnancy.  In mothers who are breastfeeding, nasal washes are a great way to combat allergies without the use of medication which sometimes interfere with the production of milk.

A salt solution enters through one opening of the nose and out the other via gravity.

The nasal wash technique requires some practice in the beginning.  Sometimes the person may ingest the salt water solution by accident due to improper technique.  (However this is not harmful considering the amount of salt intake per day.)  Make sure to use pharmaceutical grade salt and preferably one without any extra additives or fragrances.  The concentration of the salt is important so one should follow directions and not have a hypo- or on the other end an excessive hypertonic solution – which are known to impair the cilia in the nose.  Hypertonic tonic solutions are good for short-term use in cases of swollen sinuses.  But overall an isotonic solution is the safest and most effective without any concern for controversy.

Nasal washing is a great way to combat airborne allergies.  It is a proven method in many scientific articles.  In the beginning it may feel unpleasant due to the awkward sensation of a solution entering your nose.  Also visually it will look strange.  But with continued practice and use, your physical state and even mental well-being will improve greatly.

  1. May 18, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Nasal washing works great….as a pediatrician, i have found that a neti is difficult to use and uncomfortable for some. I developed Nasopure for my patients, an nicer neti nose wash, easy enough for even 2 year olds to use.

    • May 18, 2011 at 10:03 am

      Dr. Solomon… HappyBabyUSA is always looking for great products to recommend. Currently we are looking at positive pressure squeeze bottles for nasal washing. Your product and concept looks great! We agree with you that a problem with the original neti-pots is that the angle of delivery and position that the neck must be in is not ergonomically friendly. We have also concluded that a positive pressure squeeze is the most effective way to “wash-out” the pollutants in the nose. We are looking forward to try Nasopure out and test it!

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