Have you ever asked someone who is having an “allergy attack” what they are allergic to, and they say “Everything!” That’s been me my whole life. I was the kid who sniffed too much in class, always had tissues on me and sometimes could even be found with a tissue shoved up one nostril while my eyes watered and I struggled to breathe. Anything for some relief!
Many of us experience these same symptoms every year when the seasons change. And it’s all too easy to grab an antihistamine or nasal decongestant for some quick relief. However, let’s take a look at what these drugs actually do.
The Negative Effects of Allergy Medications
Antihistamines do what their name implies – stop the production of histamines. But here’s the problem: Your body produces histamines for a reason!
Histamines are produced as part of an immune response when your cells detect a pathogen (disease causing agent.) It’s important for your body to have this ability to detect problems and fix them naturally. If you grab an antihistamine every time you sneeze, you’re setting your body up for more problems in the future.
Histamines also play a big role in at least 20 other physiologic processes, including balancing gut health.1 Yes they relieve your symptoms, but at a serious cost to the rest of your body if taken regularly. When a symptom is suppressed, it will reassert itself in another direction in the body.
Nasal decongestants are another quick fix option you can find at any drug store. But have you ever read the label on those? These medicines are not to be used for more than three to five days, as they can be habit forming. This is due to the fact that they can cause rebound congestion, which makes people seek the feeling of clear breathing in just moments, over and over again. Some have called the effect addictive. It has also been found that long-term use of these sprays causes damage to your mucosal lining.2
An important point to note: Some nasal decongestants have a steroid in them while others do not. In a study of 100 subjects using steroid nasal spray for decongestion over three weeks, 66% of people who were using a placebo spray showed improvement over time. Seventy-three percent showed improvement with steroid nasal spray.3
This means that you are likely to see your symptoms improve whether you use a steroid spray or not. I don’t know about you, but when a label on an allergy medicine I’m taking says a potential side effect is MORE ALLERGY SYMPTOMS, my red flag goes up. I’d rather try every natural method first before taking these medicines to cover up my symptoms and thus prolonging the problem.
Natural Solutions for Allergy Relief
A lot of relief can be found through simple acupressure points and massaging of the face. So let’s get to know our sinuses.
Where are they?
You have several sinuses in your skull, all collectively called the Paranasal Sinuses. They are named frontal (lower forehead), maxillary (cheekbones), ethmoid (beside the upper nose) and sphenoid (behind the nose). The sinuses are lined with cells that create mucus to catch pathogens and keep your nasal passages from becoming too dry when you breathe.4
When your sinuses become inflamed during allergy season, it may be from several more serious causes: an infection (bacterial, viral or fungal), an autoimmune condition, or an obstruction such as polyps or a deviated septum. It’s a good idea to see your doctor if your allergies persist after trying the following natural methods. However, the vast majority of people can be helped by some simple at-home preventative measures.
Truly, the best way to deal with allergies is to make diet and lifestyle changes to eliminate exposure to toxins.
At the first sign of a stuffy nose, start conservative treatment:
- Saline Spray – You can use saline spray to reduce swelling and alleviate symptoms.
- Essential Oils – Diffusing essential oils containing peppermint, eucalyptus, spruce, myrtle, marjoram and many others can be very beneficial as a topical treatment.
- Prevent Excess Sniffing – Find the side that is the most congested and put a tissue in that nostril to catch draining fluid and clog the area to prevent excess sniffing, which leads to headaches. Lay down on that side and try to relax.
- Limit Nose-Blowing – When you blow your nose or sniff inward excessively, this can increase pressure inside your nasal cavity and sinuses, which will only make your condition worse. In fact, one study found that when blowing your nose too hard, you actually tend to propel 1 mL of fluid backward INTO your sinuses.5
- Facial Massage – Facial massage can be helpful when relieving tension around the face or head. A simple way to get started is by pressing gently on the skin of the forehead and spreading outward in both directions. You can do this spreading action over the cheekbones as well.
You can also use acupressure points to help drain your sinuses and relieve pressure. Use light pressure like you would use when pressing on your eyelid and sustain that contact for about 2-5 minutes or until you feel some relief. The relief may be a lessening tightness, pain alleviation or a draining feeling.6 Below are some spots to press on and helpful ways to stimulate sinus pain relief.
- The first spot is where your brow bone ends and becomes your nose – the inward and upward corner of your eye. Find the most central parts of your eyebrows and move your fingers down a few millimeters. The pressure should be inward and upward. You may feel some sensitivity in this area.
- The next two spots are located along the sides of your nose. Feel for the hard bone that makes up the bridge of your nose. Follow the bone down to where it ends and your nostrils begin. Just to the outside of the bottom of this bone is your next spot. Press slightly in toward the middle of your face but be careful not to clog your nostrils in the process.
- Then move down to the edges of your nostrils at the bottom of your nose. This is your third spot. For this spot, find the center of the bottom of your eye and move down about one inch on each side. You should be on your cheekbone. Your pressure should be pointed straight backward.
- Don’t forget about your temples. This spot can help relieve associated tension and stress in the face and head.
If these natural methods don’t help in the alleviation of your seasonal allergies or sinus pain, Whole Body Health can help.
1 (Noszal, B.; Kraszni, M.; Racz, A. (2004) “Histamine: fundamentals of biological chemistry”. In Falus, A.; Grosman, N.; Darvas, Z. Histamine: Biology and Medical Aspects. Budapest: SpringMed. pp. 15–28. ISBN 380557715X.)