Fall is a beautiful time of year. Leaves are change colors on the trees and the temperatures drop enough to inspire us to pull sweaters out of the back of the dresser. However, along with all the positives aspects of autumn, come the negatives. The grass snaps nicely underfoot, but the grass seed, pollen from dying flowers, and dust from the dry ground are also blowing around in brisk fall breeze. Those of us that suffer from seasonal allergies greet the change of seasons with reservations. The effects of seasonal allergies are compounded by spending more time indoors where other allergens can be more irritating than those outside.
Now is the time for itchy eyes, coughing, sneezing, and scratchy throats. What is one to do when these symptoms strike? Load up on antihistamines and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and all of their wonderful side-effects? Are there any other options that actually work?
First, avoid the irritant or allergens. I know, this is much easier said than done, but bear with me for a moment. Knowledge is power. Without testing of some sort, including elimination diets for food sensitivities, it is very difficult to identify the true culprit. For example, one could spend quite a bit of time and money trying to reduce exposure to dust and dust mites when he or she is actually allergic to the cottonwood tree in their front yard. With the knowledge of true allergies and sensitivities, one can make an educated effort to reduce exposure to the irritants that can be controlled. Eliminating and controlling allergens and sensitivities could eliminate digestive problems, skin disorders, and sleep problems as well. Talk with your general practitioner, ND, or DC about your options for testing.
Next, daily nasal irrigation works wonders for controlling allergy symptoms and fighting sinus infections. Nasal irrigation is accomplished using a salt water solution inside a neti pot or specially designed squirt bottle. To many, squirting or pouring salt water up the nose may sound like a bizarre suggestion, but it works. Nasal irrigation relieves sinus allergies and fights sinus infections on two levels. On one hand, it adds moisture to the nasal passages and sinuses. Dry air, especially warm dry air associated with the air indoors with heaters running, can irritate the tissue lining the upper respiratory tract. This can lead to swelling and the overproduction of mucus, both conditions creating a prime breeding ground for bacteria. Secondly, washing the nasal passages with salt water dissolves the allergens, mucus, and bacteria that are causing symptoms and flushes it all from the tract. Dr. Ellis suggests nasal irrigation a minimum of 2-3 times per day if symptomatic and 1 time per day if not.
Botanical medications can offer control and relief as well. Bromelain is a group of sulfer-containing enzymes that digest proteins. Due to its ability to break up mucus (mucolytic), bromelain has shown good results in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections. The recommended dose of bromelain for someone complaining of sinus congestion and/or sinus infection is 250mg three times per day, preferably between meals. Echinacea and goldenseal are two botanicals with antibacterial properties that may also reduce sinus symptoms and help fight infection.
Volatile oils such as menthol or eucalyptus may reduce irritation in respiratory tract and help to break up mucus. Products like “vaporub” were created with this idea in mind. Dr. Ellis recommends using heat packs with 2-3 drops of essential oil applied over the sinuses. Be careful to not get the oils too close to the eyes or directly on mucus membranes. Volatile oils can be irritating to sensitive tissue.
Some practitioners would suggest the use of colloidal silver. At this time, Dr. Ellis does not feel confident recommending or denouncing the use of colloidal silver as an antibiotic or antiviral. Dr. Ellis will follow up this post with another about the claims and research surrounding colloidal silver at a later date.