Sunday, February 24, 2008

Top Ten Remedies for Nasal Allergies and Plugged Ears

Breathing is basic to life, and allergies are an awful intrusion on the easy, regular, deep breathing we all need to stay active and healthy. Fortunately, there are many ways to breathe easier despite nasal allergies without expensive, sedating allergy drugs. Here are my top 10. (If you've already read my top 5 on ezinearticles, you may want to skip to #6.)

1. Use steroid nasal sprays sparingly if at all. Yes, they really work, but the have serious side effects.

Beconase AQ (beclomethasone), Flonase (fluticasone), Nasacort AQ (triamcinolone), Nasarel (flunisolie), Nasonex (mometasone), and Rhinocort Aqua (budesonide) supposedly offer the benefits of steroids for controlling allergies without the risks, namely, high blood pressure, stunted growth in children, osteoporosis in older adults, and a very long list of other potential complications.

The problem with these nose sprays is, other than the fact that they are very expensive, is that in rare instances they can cause nasal perforation (a whole between the nostrils), and more commonly they induce the very burning, irritation, sore throat, headache, nosebleed, and dry sinuses they are supposed to prevent.

2. Get your antihistamines from foods rather than the pharmacy.

Instead of pharmaceutical antihistamines like Benadryl (diphyenhydramine), Dimetapp and Dimetane (brompheniramine), Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine), Allegra (frexofenadine), Clarniex (desloratadine), or Zyrtec (certirizine), consider their natural alternatives.

Quercitin, a plant compound you can get from grapefruit or from eating an apple with the peel, is chemically similar to NasalCrom (cromolyn sodium); in fact, the active ingredient in NasalCrom was first found in bishop's weed, an herb that is rich in quercitin. British studies have found that eating just one apple a week lowers the frequency of allergies.

You can also get some allergy relief from vitamin C, but it wears off quickly. It's better to get 3-4 doses of 500 mg or even less throughout the day than to get one dose of 1,000-2,000 mg all at once.

3. Stop nasal allergies at their source.

If you got poison ivy every week, would it make sense to get a six months prescription for prednisone or maybe to stay out of the poison ivy? The same principle applies to ongoing nasal allergies at home. It doesn't make sense to take medication constantly if you can stop allergies at their source. HEPA filters can remove mold and dust mites and nearly all pollen and cat dander. Even better, combine a HEPA filter with a dehumidifier. The combination greatly reduces mold spore counts.

4. And if you can't afford to stop allergies at the source with an expensive HEPA filter, try an inexpensive HEPA filter.

The drawback to HEPA filtration is that you probably can't install it yourself, and it's expensive. Your next best method for cleaning the air you breathe indoors is an electronic air filter. You don't need an ozone generator, because ozone is damaging to the lungs. And if you can't afford either a HEPA filter or an electronic air cleaner, consider a do-it-yourself air filter such as 3M's Filtrete for around $25 US. You can fit these into your existing air return system in place of any old-fashioned filter that may now be in use.

5. Don't just clean your air, clean your floors (and especially your carpets).

Cleaning the air is only half the battle. You also need to clean your floors with a vacuum cleaner. What you want to avoid in choosing your vacuum cleaner is getting that sucks up dust through one end and sends out in the exhaust through the other. Vacuums with their own, smaller HEPA filters are much more expensive but go a long way toward cleaning up the air in your home.

6. Consider nose cleaning with a Neti pot.

Ever since it was shown on Oprah, millions of Americans have started nasal washing with this implement that looks a little like Aladdin's lamp. You put warm (not hot) saltwater (1 tsp, or up to 5 grams, of table salt in 1 cup/240 ml of warm water) into the lamp, to be poured into one nostril and drained out the other. Lots of people are grossed out even by the thought of pouring anything up their noses, but the sensation is not unpleasant if the water is warm, and it actually works.

7. If you are into herbal solutions, go for butterbur.

If you allergy symptoms accompany intense sinusitis or migraine, consider taking the herb butterbur. I tried for several years to get a company to make a sinus medication based on butterbur, but marketing kept rejecting my formulas because they were too cheap and too simple, not to mention too effective. Swiss researchers have found that butterbur works as well as Zyrtec (certirizine) but butterbur doesn't call drowsiness. It's also considerably less expensive than Zyrtec. Butterbur is available at natural products stores and through many vendors online. Just be sure the brand you by makes a note of extraction process they use to make product free of pyrollizidine alkaloids (PAs), to make doubly sure you're getting the pure active ingredient.

8. Like steroid nose sprays, pseudoephedrine also works for short-term relief.

For short-term relief, consider over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine (such as the well-known Sudafed). It can cause high blood pressure, jitters, and insomnia, but it does clear up nasal congestion quickly. Since pseudoephedrine can be used in the manufacture of illegal methamphetamines, in the United States you'll be strictly limited in how you can buy in any single month. It's available behind the counter at pharmacies, and you'll need ID to buy it.

9. Consider cross-sensitivities.

Many people who experience hay fever, itchy eyes, and sinusitis are also allergic to foods or latex. Try cutting back on or completely eliminating eggs, wheat, milk, chocolate, or tomatoes to see if you allergies improve. If you're allergic to latex, it's highly likely that you have at least one food allergy. People who have latex allergies and who also have hay fever tend to be allergic to apples, apricots, celery, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, prunes, and rose hip vitamin C. People who have latex allergies but who do not also have hay fever tend to allergic to avocado, bananas, kiwi, melon (or the molds on melons), and peaches.

Cross-sensitivity is also an important consideration in fish and shellfish allergy relief.

10. Use acupressure for allergy rescue.

Acupressure can also relieve allergy symptoms. Apply a gentle pressure to acupressure point LI4, in the webbing between the thumb and index finger. Angle the pressure toward the bone that supports the index finger. Work one hand, then the other. You don't have to press hard, just a few minutes of gentle pressure should give you a few minutes of allergy relief. Most American acupressure experts would add a precaution for pregnant women to avoid this acupressure point, since it's also possible to stimulation to this point to stimulate the uterus.

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