The effects of allergies on your nasal airway
Allergies are everywhere, it seems - nuts, mold, dust, chemicals, foods and more. And many of these can set off or exacerbate lung problems like asthma and COPD. This is a widespread problem that affects many, many people.
Here at Noselife, however, we explore the ins and outs of nasal breathing. Thus, we focus here on seasonal allergies and their effect on nasal health.
Somewhere around 20 per cent of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies that pounce every spring under the broad description of allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. For these unfortunates, the opening of pollen season brings watery eyes, sniffles and sneezes. And of course, many sufferers experience stuffy noses, or copiously runny noses, or stuffy and runny noses at the same time.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can be set off by outdoor allergens like tree pollen, grasses and weeds and indoor irritants including mold, pet dander and dust mites. In fact, the MedlinePlus says that allergic rhinitis is the most common factor in difficult breathing that arises from nasal congestion. Contact with an allergen causes the body to release chemicals that trigger swelling and inflammation in the sinus cavity, which dominoes into the watery eyes and itchy-inside-the-skull sensation that torments the pollen sensitive. In temperate and northern climate zones, seasonal allergies do stick to a season. However, in the southern regions of the US, the warmer temperatures seem to sustain pollen-induced discomfort practically year-round.
So, although avoiding exposure to allergens is effective, many people just can't escape them. There are some medicines that can help alleviate the symptoms. Dispensed by prescription, sprays containing corticosteroids can reduce inflammation and suppress the immune response. However, they can take many days after the first dose to begin working; that's why patients are often advised to begin taking their prescription sprays ahead of the emergence of symptoms.
Non-prescription nasal sprays containing antihistamine can also be effective, but many people find that the side effects, drowsiness and mood swings among them, are inconvenient at best, off-putting at worst.
There are prescription and non-prescription pills as well, but because of government pressure to keep the active ingredient pseudoephedrine out of the hands of illicit crystal methamphetamine cookers, they're inconvenient to buy. And, in some cases, this active ingredient can render some serious side effects, including meth-like paranoia.
It's possible that long-term exposure to pollens from weeds, trees and grasses can result in chronic inflammation and swelling of the sensitive sinus and nasal passage linings. Once that happens, the various drugs can be less effective. There are herbal and diet-based remedies, but because no regulatory authority investigates dubious claims, allergic consumers are left to navigate these products for themselves.
What to do? Drink lots of fluids, try to avoid exposure, eat healthy foods, and get enough sleep and exercise, but don't overdo the activity if it brings you into prolonged contact with things you know cause allergic reaction.
If you have believe you have chronically swollen airways, see your doctor, and ask to investigate current and emerging treatment and prevention options.