If you've ever suffered from airborne allergies, you're probably familiar with the symptoms: nasal congestion and pressure, watery and burning eyes, coughing and sneezing, and perhaps a sore throat. More severe symptoms include sinus headaches, neck pain, upper tooth or jaw pain, even sinus infections.
An allergy attack can make life generally miserable, causing fatigue and even difficulty sleeping due to sinus congestion.
Very simply, airborne allergy symptoms are the body's reaction to inhaled irritants.
Your nasal sinuses are a series of bony cavities behind the nose that are lined with a soft, moist tissue called mucosa. Part of the job of the mucosa is to trap airborne particles you inhale, in order to prevent them from being breathed into the lungs. In this way, the sinuses act as an air filter for the lungs.
Normally, these trapped particles are then "rinsed" from the sinuses by mucus, at which point you either swallow them or blow them into a tissue.
If you have an allergy to the specific airborne particle, however, your body responds differently. Pet dander, mold and pollen are three common allergens that may stimulate an "over-reaction" when inhaled. Your body secretes histamine, a protein that triggers the symptoms commonly associated with allergies.
The mucosa becomes swollen and inflamed, mucus production is ramped up dramatically, and you may experience sneezing fits as your body tries to forcibly expel the irritant. Prolonged sinus congestion can also trap bacteria, leading to a more serious sinus infection.
Antihistamines reduce symptoms by "deactivating" histamine, thereby calming the body's reaction. The downside to antihistamines is that they may cause drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness or upset stomach.
There is, however, an incredibly effective alternative to antihistamines.
Nasal irrigation, also known as nasal lavage, involves pouring a small stream of warm saline (salt water) into one nostril, letting it exit from the other nostril. This technique has been practiced for centuries in India, and is only recently gaining respect in the Western world as a safe, effective treatment for nasal allergies.
A neti pot, which looks like a miniature flower watering pot, is the most effective way to irrigate your own sinuses. It's cheap, safe, effective, and there are no side effects to this treatment. To check out research on the use of a neti pot, and to see an instructional video on its use, follow this link to the University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine: http://www.fammed.wisc.edu/research/past-projects/nasal-irrigation
The neti pot works in 2 simple ways:
1. The warm saline solution physically flushes out the congestion, which clears airways for normal breathing. Clear sinuses also reduce the risk of sinus infection.
2. It also rinses allergens off the mucosa, removing the irritants that triggered the histamine reaction in the first place.
Neti pots are cheap (about $20), readily available (any drugstore), and very effective at managing acute or chonic sinus problems. Plus, they last forever, are drug-free and easy to use.
Using a neti pot may feel strange for the first few times, but you'll quickly feel more comfortable with it. Use a neti pot whenever you're experiencing allergy symptoms, and expect at least some relief immediately.
Sinus sufferers, I challenge you. Try this simple remedy -- you just might be amazed!