It’s bad enough having an allergy with runny nose and sneezing. What is worse is getting a sinus infection as a result of the allergy. Let’s discuss how to prevent this.
In Allergy – for example weed allergy in the fall-blowing your nose too hard can weaken the immune system by damaging the nasal membranes. Poor sleep, poor diet, anxiety, too many drying medications can reduce the normal immune response. In allergy, getting chilled, and too many iced drinks slow the good nasal cilia response.
Normally nasal cilia move bacteria out of the nose and keep you healthy. In the early stages of a weed allergy the nasal cilia speed up and the nose drips. Later, the cilia are exhausted, and no longer move the bacteria out of the nose, thereby allowing the bacteria to multiply.
A common cause of sinus disease is the act of blowing the nose too hard. Excessive blowing irritates the nose in the same manner as rubbing the eyes too hard-eye-rubbing damages the delicate eye membranes, and blowing hard can damage nasal membranes. When Big Jim blows hard and loud enough to hear him next door, he is harming his tissues and spreading bacteria to healthy areas of his sinuses and into his ears.
If weeds are your allergy, it is best to remain on the ocean in your yacht. Or, stay indoors and avoid the pollen. Important: If you are in a rainy area, the humidity above 50% increases dust mites and mold so keeping the humidity below 50% is important. Even if weeds are your allergy, dust adds to your misery, as does mold.
Various products can aid your allergy including antihistamine pills such as Claritin and Zyrtec. Nasal sprays containing antihistamine such as Astelin or Astepro help many allergics. If you know your allergy calendar, you can start Nasochrom before the allergy season for good relief. Nasochrom is available without a prescription and has almost no side effects. Some persons do well with the cortisone type nasal sprays such as Flonase or Veramist. For most persons, the effects of the various cortisone nasal sprays are similar, so select by price.
On the other hand, be aware that nasal sprays containing benzalkonium inhibit cilia function. Long-term use of Afrin nasal spray can cause rebound and addiction to this product.
Many of my patients do well during allergy season by rinsing the nose with saline. With pulsatile saline irrigation you get a known removal of pollen and the wave pulsatile action restores cilia function.
Prevent the Sinus Infection:
Prevention of sinus infection is accomplished by keeping the cilia moving and washing away pollen and bacteria.
Primary weapon is Tea Lemon and Honey. Tea contains xanthines including L theonine that act to speed nasal and chest cilia. Lemon contains antioxidants and thins the mucus, thereby allowing better cilia movement. Honey kills bacteria and also thins mucus. About eight glasses of tea, lemon and honey is best. This must be black or green tea, with or without caffeine. One of the compounds in tea is called EGCG. This blocks the receptor that makes the allergic response of histamine and IgE.
Cilia speed up with rest and relaxation and freedom from anxiety. Use compresses to the sinus areas-
o between the eyes for the ethmoid sinuses
o below the eyes for the maxillary sinuses
o above the eyes for the frontal sinuses
This helps in two ways-increased circulation and resting the patient.
Remember Chicken Soup- Jewish penicillin? That also has factors that speed nasal cilia. Recall, your nose sometimes drips when you take chicken soup.
Humibid is a Guaifensin product that increases cilia movement too. Various proteolytic enzymes such as Papain and Bromelain will thin the mucus and thereby speed cilia. Use a balanced amount of these enzymes that you melt in your mouth. That way, you avoid the stomach acid that inactivates these enzymes.
Adequate fluids help too. Sudafed and related products (pseudoephedrine) work well.
Humming at a low pitched “oooommmm” is a vibratory sound that gets the tissue vibrating, as well as the air itself and helps cilia move well. There is a device called The Flutter Device. It is like a kazoo and when you blow in it, you get a low pitched sound that vibrates not only the chest cilia, but the nasal as well. There is an Australian musical instrument called the DIDGERIDOOS that gives the deep resonate sound ideal for moving chest and nasal cilia.
Jump rope and jumping jacks are also effective for waking up slow cilia, but not many of my patients have the energy for this after six weeks of sneezing.
The doctors all advise adequate sleep and rest. Good advice. How to do this when your nose is plugged and you are sneezing? Since good sleep is primary for keeping up your immunity and avoiding a sinus infection, here are some pointers that help:
Set your sleep clock. If you go to bed nightly at the same time then you sleep clock can be set. Make going to sleep as formal as possible with specific steps you repeat nightly such as:
Brush your teeth
Comb/brush your hair
Cream your hands/face
Try to have the same room temperature and bedclothes. Some persons do better with a sleepy music or a TV show such as the Shopping Channel for men or the Sports Channel for women. You may want to discuss with your doctor about using Melatonin to help set that sleep clock.
For that nighttime plugged nose, a Benzedrex inhaler often works well, as does a Benadryl capsule.
Pulsatile irrigation refers to using a nasal/sinus irrigator device that pulses at a rate to “harmonize” with normal cilia movement. This gently delivers saline solution in the form of waves that, like the ocean, come up and then retreat. Used during the allergy season, pulsatile irrigation is effective in irrigating away dust and pollen, lowering the body’s IgE level in the blood, and reducing the need for drugs.
In some persons, this might be enough relief and allow them to stop taking medications. This method is ideal for those who prefer to avoid drugs for their allergy, particularly if you are pregnant. If you use pulsatile irrigation to remove the jasmine pollen that lands in your nose, you are still allergic to the pollen, but your body can handle the reduced amount of the pollen in your system with fewer symptoms when your natural cilia movement is active in removing the pollen.
When Mucus is Colored
When mucus is colored, this suggests bad bacteria are in your sinuses. A common cause is using squeeze or pot irrigators that have “flowback,” With flowback, bacteria from the nose flows back into the bottle or pot and grow; then they are introduced back into the nose at the next irrigation.
Pulsatile irrigation should be started to avoid a sinus infection when mucus thickens and becomes colored. That is when the cilia are “worn out. ” The rate of the pulsatile wave action moves the cilia, the wave irrigation action removes thick mucus that may impede cilia movement and flow. An important factor is that pulsatile irrigation removes bacteria and virus products, and is more effective for biofilm removal.
Biofilm is recognized today as a chief reason why sinus disease is so hard to cure. Here, the bacteria get together in colonies and form a slime coating that makes it difficult for the antibiotic to penetrate. That same coating is sticky so that ordinary rinsing doesn’t do a good job of dislodging this product. Pulsatile irrigation can be highly beneficial where biofilm is the culprit because the pulsation helps to dislodge the sticky memebrane and the wave action helps to move it out of the nose.
Reducing bacterial load is extremely beneficial for preventing sinus infection following an allergy. One approach is prophylactic antibiotic. This can be administered via pulsatile irrigation. However, any antibiotic has drawbacks of sensitizing the patient, building up bacterial resistance and potential side effects of the drug.
Reduce Bacterial Load
One answer to reducing bacterial load without side effects is to use Xylitol in the pulsatile solution. Xylitol is a sugar that is used to bake cookies for diabetic patients. Because it is metabolized by the liver and not by insulin, it is an ideal sweetener for diabetic patients. However, most bacteria can’t digest it. In essence, the bacteria gorge on the Xylitol which they can’t digest. Think of them as soldiers who are now too stoned or drunk to defend themselves, and can be defeated by your natural defense factors such as lysozyme. Now, these impaired bacteria can be easily swept away.
By delivering Xylitol in the pulsatile irrigator, you significantly lower the bacterial load so that your natural healing takes place to get rid of remaining bacteria.
Xylitol has many advantages. It is inexpensive-about five dollars a pound, it is sold in most health food stores, it has no side effects on the patient, and doesn’t change bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Just as you can use Xylitol daily to sweeten your tea, similarly you can use it daily for nasal/sinus irrigation.
In my practice I have my patients make a 1% Xylitol/Saline solution.
Add 500 cc (about one pint) of bottled or distilled water to the irrigator bowl. Add one teaspoon of salt or one packet of enhanced saline such as Breathe.ease XL. Then add two teaspoons of Xylitol. This makes a 1% solution of Xylitol.
Using this daily at the end of the allergy attack can restore nasal cilia function, remove bacterial products, and significantly lower bacterial load to prevent the sinus infection that may otherwise follow the allergy.
It is always important to get sufficient rest, use the cilia stimulation I have described, and improve natural immunity with good gut bacteria such as probiotics, and keep a sunny outlook.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology estimates 37 million persons with sinus disease in the US. We can significantly reduce this total number by following the plan detailed here.