The marketplace has many prescription and over-the-counter medications and sprays for congestion. With nasal rinsing, a person could take a more natural approach to combating the congestion of allergies and sinus disorders.
Traditional Treatments for Nasal Congestion
Nasal allergies (allergic rhinitis) are so common that about 20% of adults have them. They can be so bothersome that people can miss work or school, and the allergies can even lead to other kinds of sinus problems. The sinuses, which are pockets in the skull that are hollow (connected to the nasal passages), can get blocked by the inflamed mucous membranes. If the sinuses can’t drain, then air and mucus get trapped, building up pressure and leading to pain. 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. 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 they are used 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 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 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 flow of a water/saline-based solution through one nostril and out the other. 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.2 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 (also distilled or sanitized) water. This requires less practice on the part of the user, as the head positioning doesn’t require the same side-tilt for gravity as the neti pot does. Allergens, viruses, irritants, and bacteria are flushed out in a more rapid fashion. With these kinds of methods, people need to remember that the water should be clean and lukewarm, not cold or too hot. Both neti pots and nasal irrigation should be used over the sink, and users should blow their noses afterwards to clear the solution from the nasal passages and sinuses.3
Learn about how chiropractic can help with allergies.