A lot of people ask me about natural remedies for seasonal allergies, and one of my main responses is always: prevention through regular sinus rinsing. Of course, my favorite method is the neti pot, but if you have mental barriers to using the neti pot, a spray sinus cleanse is a good alternative.
Why sinus rinsing?
The key to preventing allergic reactions in the body is to stop the allergens from accumulating and incubating in your respiratory system in the first place. I might not be explaining this perfectly since I’m not a doctor, but here goes: allergens such as pollen, dust, or pet dander enter through your nose and mouth and are caught in the tiny hairs in your sinus passages. They hang out there, irritating your body. Your body launches “attacks” on these foreign bodies by manufacturing mucus, causing your eyes to itch and water, and a variety of other reactions meant to help your body rid itself of something it doesn’t like.
To minimize these cleansing reactions, it is important to keep your sinus passages cleaned out as much as possible. A great way to do this is regular saline rinsing. Rinsing is the practice of sending a sterile solution (most frequently salt-and-water) through the sinus cavities and back out, taking the irritants with the saline as it exits. The solution must be sterile so that you are not introducing additional irritants or bacteria via the rinse.
The options for rinsing
My option of choice is, of course, the neti pot. I have already written a post that covers how to use a neti pot, but the main advantages of neti pot, for me, are:
- inexpensive (I make my own solution)
- portable (I bring the empty pot and salt with me on airplanes in my carry-on)
- reusable (the neti pot itself can be reused indefinitely)
- water used in the neti pot must be boiled (this is time consuming but I keep a carafe of pre-boiled water next to my bathroom sink)
- learning to use the neti pot takes a while (if you are doing it correctly the neti pot should not hurt)
If you find the neti pot difficult to use, another good option is a prepackaged saline nasal spray*. I actually use saline sprays such as Little Noses for my children since they are too little for the neti pot. However, many companies also make adult versions of a saline spray. With most sprays, you are moisturizing your sinuses, but aren’t necessarily washing the irritants out. You’re just making them wetter. If you follow a typical saline spray mist by vigorous nose blowing (which is what I have my kids do), it is a big help, but a better option would be to use an irrigation system that has a special nozzle creating a targeted stream (see illustration, right). The nozzle increases the force of the saline so that it shoots right back out of your nose, very much like a neti pot.
Advantages of using a prepackaged irrigation system include:
- Ease of use (ready to go out of the package)
- Solution is always sterile (provided you do not share containers to prevent cross contamination)
- difficulty in disposing of or recycling the container, creates a lot of waste
- more expensive
The things that makes me cringe about a saline spray option is that the end-of-life options for the materials are very bad. The entire container uses a lot of plastic, which can’t be recycled. The canister itself utilizes compressed air of some kind, so technically you should not dispose of it in residential trash due to the danger of explosion from puncture in the trash compacting process. I guess your best bet would be to try and locate a facility that disposes of compressed air containers like hair spray, spray paint, and other similar products.
With that caveat, there is definitely a sinus rinse option that can help you this allergy season! If that’s not enough, check back with me later and I’ll have some essential oil solutions for seasonal allergies.
*NOTE: I was given a specific pre-packaged irrigation system for review for this post but the company was comfortable highlighting the disadvantages outlined. At their request, I have removed the name of their product from this post. If you would like my recommendation on a pre-packaged irrigation system, please see the Amazon widget in the right column of the blog.