Do your sinuses let you keep your windows open?

This time of year, before we really need to close the windows and turn on the AC, my family has a ritual. One member of the family opens all the windows and celebrates as the Spring breezes and fragrances blow through our house. My daughter follows behind, closing all the windows, cursing under her breath and looking for boxes of tissues. While opening the windows back up, I tell her to stop eating so much sugar, use the Neti pot and take her Chinese herbs.  We call this ritual, “Allergy Season”!

If you are a sufferer of allergies, you are probably cursing right along with my daughter.  Open windows can cause havoc! So this week, Dr. Vaughn and I want to tell you all the things we at Exhale can offer you so that open windows can be more of a blessing in your life.

Starting with the least amount of intervention to the most, we would like to start by introducing you to a Neti pot or other form of nasal irrigation. Nasal irrigation is a way of rinsing the tissue inside your nose. Using a very mild solution of salt water, it can rinse away allergens and other irritants that cause the allergic response. It can also reduce mild inflammation that has started. This irrigation can be done with a Neti pot, a pot in the shape of a genie lantern that is used to pour the solution from one nostril to the other. It can be done with a bottle that sprays the solution. There are pulsating machines that are like waterpik’s for the nose, and there are fine mist sprays. At Exhale we use the spray bottle version but support the use of all options. Come see us and we can teach you all about it.

Diet Therapy is another minimally invasive approach to allergies. And while, these days, there are many theories about how to feed ourselves, we find that a whole food, plant based diet, naturally loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and lacking in additives, processed foods, and commonly reactive foods like dairy, processed wheat, corn, and hydrogenated fats, is best for reducing the inflammation and resulting congestion that is so classic of allergies. Both Lisa and Dr. Vaughn are here to help you design a diet that can help you meet your needs.

Chinese Herbal Remedies are a bit more concentrated than food and thus considered more of an intervention.  While some herbal remedies can be as simple as drinking ginger tea or taking an echinacea supplement, the art of Chinese Herbal Remedies comes from how we can finely tune them for your needs. This involves a diagnostic process where we work to understand exactly how your body is responding to allergens and what state of health you are otherwise in. Herbs are then chosen and formulated according to your specific needs. At Exhale, most of our herbal formulas come in pill form and are simple to take. The efficacy of Chinese Herbal Remedies is documented in the following study: Zhang X, Lan F, Zhang Y, Zhang L.   Chinese Herbal Medicine to Treat Allergic Rhinitis: Evidence From a Meta-Analysis.   Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2018 Jan;10(1):34-42.

Acupuncture or Acupressure is our next offering for allergies. Documented in this study, Effect of acupuncture on house dust mite specific IgE, substance P, and symptoms in persistent allergic rhinitis McDonald, John Leslie et al.  Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Volume 116, Issue 6, 497 - 505, acupuncture was shown to improve the symptoms of nasal obstruction, nasal itch, sneezing, runny nose, eye itch, and unrefreshed sleep, significantly.  It has also been shown to decrease the use of antihistamines that might otherwise be relied upon.

And now it’s my turn! As a physician who sees a lot of patients with allergies, I emphatically support the pathway laid out above by Lisa. The simple act of washing the allergens out with a sinus irrigation helps to reduce the triggers and makes the additional interventions so much more effective.

Anti-Histamine Nasal Sprays I am a big fan of these. They are targeted in their application, avoiding significant distribution throughout our body. If your allergies manifest mostly as symptoms within your nose (runny nose, sneezing, itching nose or post nasal drainage), this is a great next step. There are the generic options that work well, but can have a real funky taste (azelastine). But fear not, if you find the taste so unpleasing as to want to avoid the medication, a more palatable option does exist!

Anti-Histamine Pills Allergy symptoms can include itching, wheezing, hives, and others. If you find yourself in this position, the advantage of a pill is that the anti-histamine medication will be delivered throughout your entire body (systemically). There are first and second generation anti-histamine pills, with the second generation (allegra, claritin, xyzal, and zyrtec) designed to not cross over into the brain and therefore avoid the sleepy side effect of the first generation anti-histamines like Benadryl.

Clarifix If you find that a major portion of your allergy symptom is runny nose, this simple procedure may be right for you. This procedure cools the sensitive spot in the back of your nose, helping to reduce your runny/drippy nose. While this is not a “cure” for allergies, it can sure make the allergy season more tolerable when you have one less symptom to control or worry about.

And, lastly, we can recommend that you see an Allergist. This is a doctor that specializes in understanding what your body is allergic to and how your body responds. We don’t offer this medicine at Exhale but we can help you find a doctor that can help you in this way.

Good luck with the season!  Here’s to open windows!!!

Ryan C Vaughn, MD
Founder and Director at Exhale Sinus, TMJ, Headache & Sleep