Wash, Wash, Wash Your Nose
Do you have tissues in every room of your house? Do you hesitate to go outside on some days because you know your allergies are going to make you suffer? I do. I’ve often thought that Mother Nature’s sense of humor has a cruel streak, giving me both a passion for the outdoors and allergies to all the trees, flowers, grasses, and animals I love. Not fair!
Whether it’s you, your spouse, or your children, the whole family suffers when someone has allergies. There is nothing good about the congestion, fatigue, sneezing fits, runny nose, sinus infections, asthma, and all-around misery allergies bring into our lives. For some, it’s a seasonal problem, but for many it’s year-round. Pollen, grass, dust, and urban particulates cause inflammation in the lining of the nose that affects our eyes, sinuses, and lungs. During the winter, major allergy triggers move inside. In fact, if you are allergic to dust, animal dander, mold, mildew, or wood smoke, you may suffer even more during the winter months than in spring and summer.
Every year I hear someone at the local farmers’ market or in my yoga class saying, “This is the worst year for allergies I’ve ever seen!” Can it really be getting worse each year?
Statistics say yes. Allergies often lead to asthma, and a study conducted in the United Kingdom discovered that the rate of asthmatic children rose from 13 percent to 23 percent in eight years. In addition, the World Health Organization estimates that the number of Americans with asthma has increased more than 60 percent since the 1980s. Other reports state that asthma rates among children in North America are four times higher than they were 20 years ago.
Consider the daily assault of chemicals, fragrances, automobile exhaust, dust, pollen, animal dander, smoke, and other particulates that are a part of our daily life. These cumulative assaults increase in magnitude over time, and increase allergy symptoms, healthcare costs, and time lost at school or work.
Physicians will prescribe allergy medication and counsel you about the possible side effects of fatigue and dry mouth. Monthly allergy shots manipulate the immune system to decrease allergic reactions. They may deem your situation severe enough to prescribe steroids, which are strong life-saving anti-inflammatories that effectively treat asthma attacks, a common consequence of uncontrolled allergies. If allergies lead to recurrent sinus infections, your physician will need to give you antibiotics and may even suggest sinus surgery. Too many of us have been down all these paths, and then one day we realize: We need to be more proactive in our attempts to avoid medical intervention.
So, popping pills is definitely not my first choice when it comes to staying healthy, and some of us simply cannot avoid exposure to allergens. Life calls! What alternative options do allergy sufferers have?
The key is this—most allergic reactions start in the nose. The nose is designed to filter the air we breathe, swirling air past tiny hairs that catch particulates before they can settle into the airways and lungs. But the nose, like any filter, is only effective if clean and fully functional. If that filter is already full of particles, the nose fails and the trapped allergens will start an allergic reaction we all want to avoid. Once the nose fails, it affects the ears, sinuses, and throat, causing irritability, headaches, snoring, coughing, and general misery.
I learned I must assist my nose in its attempts to effectively protect me from allergens. This simple, obvious concept is life-changing. A long time ago, we learned that if we brush our teeth, we prevent cavities. We clean filters in our clothes dryers, our home heaters, and our cars. Common sense told me to clear allergens out of my nose before they could cause miserable symptoms, so I learned to clean the filter in my nose. How? I wash.
Washing my nose feels like swimming in the ocean, but is much more comfortable and effective. My grandma encouraged me to sniff salt water or use a humidifier when I had my frequent attacks. Now I’m much happier using a simple nose washing system that gives me full control and feels better. In ancient times they used neti pots, but the more modern systems are easier to use and give better results. Neti pots rely on gravity for the flow, requiring me to twist and turn my head as I wash. And, if my nose is congested, the neti flow is easily blocked. Newer systems have solved this problem by providing a better design for safe, comfortable, and effective cleansing (see nasopure.com).
Nasal washing has no significant negative side effects, but it does freshen the breath, improve our ability to smell sweet flowers and taste good food, and it gives us an overall sense of well-being. Babies tolerate nose washes with some help from parents. Children as young as two can successfully wash their own noses, creating a lifelong habit as healthy as brushing their teeth. And older people benefit from the moisturizing effects while avoiding the side effects of expensive medications. Why didn’t we think of this a long time ago?
Every morning when I brush my teeth I also wash my nose. Every time I come in from my yard, covered in debris from my beloved garden, I wash my nose. Every time I return from a bike ride through the countryside, I wash my nose. It’s as simple as washing my hands and face. Since learning to clean my nose, my need for allergy medication has decreased significantly. I’m saving money and feeling better.
Spending less money with no side effects is a win-win solution to a persistent and costly problem. How simple is that? Your nose and your wallet will both thank you.
Hana R. Solomon, md (aka dr. Hana) is a board-certified pediatrician and the author of Clearing The Air One Nose At A Time: Caring For Your Personal Filter. She serves as the President of BeWell Health, LLC. For 20 years, Dr. Hana practiced pediatrics at the Solomon Family Medical Clinic in Columbia, Missouri. nasopure.com