Other Nondrug Allergy Treatments continued...
“I think more Americans need to get used to nasal irrigation,” says Leopold. “It’s very effective and it makes clear sense. You’re flushing away the things that are irritating your nasal membranes.” In one study of children with allergies, nasal irrigation three times a day dramatically improved their symptoms after three to six weeks. It also allowed them to take lower doses of their allergy drugs.
A common “recipe” for the salt-water solution is to mix a quart of water with two to three teaspoons of picking, canning, or sea salt and one teaspoon of baking soda. Store at room temperature in a covered jar or bottle. Don’t use standard table salt, due to the presence of iodine and other additives. Irrigate each nostril with approximately one-half cup of the solution, a few times daily for acute conditions or once daily for maintenance.
To enhance the effect, Rakel recommends adding a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil to the salt water. “I think it works really nicely,” he says. “The eucalyptus constricts the blood vessels, reducing the inflammation.”
- HEPA filters. Leopold recommends using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which should trap some of the allergens circulating in your home. Get one for your vacuum cleaner, too. Without it, your vacuum will just shoot the tiny allergens back into the air -- and into your nose.
- Allergy shots. Most allergy treatments are just ways of trying to tamp down the symptoms. But allergy shots, or immunotherapy, offer a permanent solution. By injecting very small but increasing amounts of an allergen under the skin, you can gradually get your immune system used to it.Eventually, even large amounts may not trigger symptoms. This approach does take time -- usually months of injections -- and it’s not always successful.
Rakel also recommends a homeopathic alternative to allergy shots. “The principle is exactly the same,” he says. “But instead of shots, you place a very dilute amount of the allergen under the tongue.” Although this approach has not been studied well, Rakel believes the benefits are comparable. Regardless of the approach, any allergy desensitization should be done under the supervision of a professional experienced in the method, such as a doctor who is an allergist or immunologist.
- Protection. If you’re heading out to clean a dusty garage or rake during pollen season, gear up. Don’t just wear a mask over your mouth and nose, but goggles over your eyes too. “Most people don’t realize it, but lots of allergens enter the body through the eyes,” says Leopold.
- Acupuncture. Many people who suffer with allergic rhinitis are now turning to acupuncture for relief. The evidence on its effectiveness is mixed. While some studies have found no benefit, others have been promising. For instance, a 2008 German study of more than 5,000 adults found that acupuncture seemed to reduce symptoms significantly compared to standard treatment.