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Spring Allergies: A Q&A with Our Top Expert

How to handle the runny nose, itchy eyes, and sinus pain of spring allergies


You have to give people treatment choices that they can actually work with and that are going to work for them. You can’t tell someone who has had a dog for 10 years and just had a kid to get rid of the dog. That dog has been their kid longer than the kid.

So you make certain changes in the home: keep the dog, have the child irrigate. You can use saline nasal spray and saline drops even on infants, which can be very helpful. And certainly keep the animal out of the baby’s room -- put up a gate if you have to. Put an air filter in the baby’s room. All these things can really help.

Q: As you’ve mentioned, another lifestyle approach is to “irrigate” the sinuses -- as some cultures have practiced for centuries -- but it tends to turn some people off. What’s the benefit of this homespun remedy? You must get a lot of resistance when you first recommend it to patients.

A: I think neti pots are probably the best thing out there for people with sinus problems and allergies and even colds. You can also use a pulsating nasal irrigator or a squeeze bottle. All are easy to use, and the risks are almost zero. It’s kind of like taking a shower when you get home.

Patients always ask me, How long do I have to do this? and I ask them,  How long have you been taking a shower? And they say, My whole life. Well, that’s the answer. You’re cleaning out the dirt in your nose and sinuses; why not wash that out?

At first some people are a little afraid, and some people think it’ll be too cumbersome. But almost all of my patients come back very positively and say it makes a difference. My 6-year-old is doing it, my 5-year-old is starting, and we’re trying to get our 2-year-old to do it. Whether you’re 2 or 92, this is good for everybody.

Q: What promise do alternative and complementary therapies hold for those who have spring allergies?

A: Besides irrigation, acupuncture seems to work well for some people through the rebalancing of chi (the energy forces in the body), which can help fortify the immune system to help alleviate the symptoms of sinusitis, allergies, and asthma.

Some of my patients want to try homeopathic remedies, so I send them to doctors who do integrative medicine. A very diluted amount of a particular medicine or combination of medicines is given on the theory that it will boost the immune system. The treatment is individual; each patient is carefully evaluated and receives a specific combination of homeopathic ingredients.

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