I have found throughout my life that nasal allergies are, for the most part, little more than annoying. I mean, it's certainly no fun to be sneezing, blowing, and have a stuffy head. But it's not life threatening, or even scary like it is when my asthma makes me start wheezing and feel short of breath. In fact, I'm even willing to "put up" with nasal allergy symptoms in order to do/have things I enjoy, such as a live Christmas tree or going hiking in the summer.
I don't like taking medicine, not even the medicine I need, like my asthma inhaler. But, as a healthcare professional, and lifelong asthma/allergy sufferer, I do accept that sometimes medicine is needed in order to stay healthy and to feel good.
However, I am generally open to the idea of more "natural" alternatives that don't require me to put a foreign chemical into my body. Alternative therapies for allergies are big business these days. There are tons of products out there claiming to be the "next big thing" in treating or curing allergies. Don't believe everything you read, though.
So, how do you know what TO believe? Here's a brief rundown on some of the alternative therapies available for asthma:
- Acupuncture. This Chinese treatment has been touted as useful in a number of different health conditions, including allergies. Unfortunately, although there is a ton of anecdotal evidence saying that it works, there is a real lack of scientific evidence proving its usefulness in allergies. Some studies showed it improved quality of life, but did not have any effect on actual symptoms.
- Sinus rinses. Sinus rinses are all the rage of late. Followers claim great relief from all sorts of sinus-related ailments, including nasal allergies. Nasal rinse, or nasal irrigation uses salt water to clear the nasal/sinus passages, getting rid of allergens and mucus. This fairly gentle therapy HAS been proven to be effective. You can buy a kit or even make your own.
- Herbal remedies. There are many herbal remedies that claim to help allergies too. A few actually show some promise. Butterbur is one of them. Butterbur is a shrub-like plant from the ragweed family that is found in northern Asia, Europe, and parts of North America. Its extract has been used in folk medicine for centuries. Butterbur does relieve nasal allergy symptoms, but it can also cause a number of different side effects and cannot be used by people allergic to ragweed. And its raw form (or preparations made from the raw form) can carry toxins harmful to your health. Quercetin is another herb thought to inhibit histamine, a major factor in the allergic response. Quercetin is found naturally in apples, berries, red grapes, and black tea. Omega-3-fatty acids and carotenoids have also shown some positive effects. The bottom line, though, is that much more study is needed in this area.
- Allergy drops/Sublingual immunotherapy. Allergy shots have proven useful in eliminating sensitivities in certain people. The theory is that by slowly introducing tiny, but increasing, amounts of an allergen under your skin, it will eventually stimulate your body to develop a sort of immunity to that allergen. It works well for some people. Allergy drops follow the same theory, except they introduce the allergen in the form of drops that you put under your tongue. They've been used for many years in Europe, but have yet to gain FDA approval in the U.S.
So, as you can see, there are alternatives to expensive and "unnatural" allergy medicines. But they may or may not be as effective... or as safe. If you have questions, your best bet is to consult with your allergist. And you may want to get a second opinion from a holistic health practitioner. Just be sure you consult with a legitimate healthcare professional, not a quack.