Traditional Treatments for Nasal Congestion
The marketplace has many prescription and over-the-counter medications and sprays for congestion. With nasal rinsing, a person could take a more natural, less expensive approach to combating the congestion of allergies and sinus disorders.
Nasal Allergies and Sinus Problems
Nasal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, are so common that about 20% of all adults have them. They can be so bothersome that people might miss work or school. And the allergies can even lead to the future development of other kinds of sinus problems. Like most ailments, both physical and mental, sinus problems that are left unchecked will very often worsen when they could have been treated before reaching a severe point. The sinuses are pockets in the skull that are hollow (connected to the nasal passages). They might become blocked at a multitude of times throughout the patient’s life by the inflamed mucous membranes. If the sinuses are not able to drain, then air and mucus get trapped. This builds up pressure and leads to pain.
Antihistamines, Decongestants and Nasal Sprays
Many people try various over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines (i.e., Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra) to block histamines that the body produces. These types of medicine are not a sustainable treatment option, and the cost of buying them for every clogged nostril will add up. Histamines cause sneezing and itching, and these medications temporarily stop these symptoms. Some people may also try decongestants (i.e., Sudafed) or nasal sprays (i.e., Afrin). Oral decongestants can relieve the congestion, also temporarily. But the nasal sprays can have a “rebound effect”, making symptoms worse, if you use them more than a few days. Doctors may prescribe steroid nasal sprays to reduce nasal passage swelling. Flonase and Nasonex are two popular steroid prescriptions. An oral steroid, such as prednisone, is reserved for the more serious cases. There are also other prescriptions that include antihistamines and decongestants.
Long-term medication use, especially with steroids, can carry many lasting and troublesome side effects. Some people may respond to allergy shots, which take 5 years to complete, or sublingual immunotherapy. More conservative options for the patient to try at home would include:
- humidifying the air (but not enough to increase dust mites),
- environmental controls (i.e., HEPA filters, mattress covers),
- and trying supplements (i.e. quercetin).
Note, however, that butterbur and Echinacea, which are related to ragweed, can increase allergic reactions in some.1
Nasal Rinsing and Neti Pots
Nasal irrigation can be achieved in a variety of ways, from neti pots to nasal flushing systems. The general concept is to introduce a combined flow of water and a saline-based solution that passes through one nostril and out the other. Starting from a very young age, when the patient is first able to properly and safely follow the instructions, anyone can use a nasal rinsing device. Typical neti pots are plastic, ceramic, metal, or glass. Gravity and head positioning help the water flow the way it needs to. For many people, this requires a good deal of practice. It is important to use water that has been pre-boiled, or otherwise sterilized or distilled, so as not to cause infection. Tap water might seem safe, but it could also introduce organisms into the nostrils that might eventually cause the development of a serious infection.2
Squeeze Bottle Method
Another option is to use a squeeze-bottle method of introducing the rinse. In systems such as NeilMed, the saline packets are pre-measured to go into a special squeeze bottle filled with warm and distilled or sanitized water. This requires less practice on the part of the user, as the head positioning does not require the same side-tilt for gravity as the neti pot does. Though it will seem as though squeezing liquid up one nostril is counterintuitive to washing out blockages, the water and saline do come out the other nostril with only a slight head tilt.
It is important to remember that the saline packet is added as the nasal rinse with plain water feels more like water entering the nose in a swimming pool otherwise. The use of neti pot or squeeze bottle nasal rinse from NeilMed flushes out allergens, viruses, irritants, and bacteria in a more rapid fashion.
Things to Remember
With these kinds of methods, people need to remember that the water should be clean and lukewarm. Not cold or too hot. Use both neti pots and nasal irrigation over the sink. Users should blow their noses afterwards to clear the solution from the nasal passages and sinuses.3
Maintaining the Nasal Rinsing Instrument
After every use, patients need to remember to clean their nasal rinsing instrument. NeilMed has some recommended steps for their products. All parts of the device should be rinsed in free-flowing water, first, before dish soap and water is added to the squeeze bottle. With the cap on and while one finger is used to cover the hole in the cap, the bottle should be shaken vigorously, and the water and soap should be squeezed out to thoroughly clean the tube that is attached to the cap. A bottle brush should be used to properly scrub the interior of the squeeze bottle, rinsed again, and then dried properly to be stored in a cool and dry place with adequate ventilation.4
Learn about how chiropractic can help with allergies.