Allergies or Irritants?

acupuncture for allergies

Spring signals itself in many ways…the world gets greener, we get eager to spend more time outdoors, AND many of us start with runny noses and itchy eyes.

Allergies, right? Well, maybe

Allergies are the body’s responses to foreign matter when the invader is specifically identified as being a life-threatening attacker. For example, lots of kids these days are “allergic” to peanuts. If they eat one, their bodies can’t discern that a peanut is a harmless thing used to make kid-friendly sandwiches. Their cells go on alert; they swell, itch and have trouble breathing. Same with allergies to pollen, dust and other respiratory triggers: eyes, nose and respiratory organs think that a small grain of pollen or dust is a terrorist in disguise.
So if these are your symptoms, then it might be allergies. BUT, it could also be an irritant. Irritants are thing that enter the nose and eyes (dust, pollen and other things floating through the air in spring) and they simply irritate the tissue lining your eyes and respiratory tract. Anyone could get an irritation if enough of the offending floating stuff is taken in. Think of what happens when you get something in your eye–even something you aren’t allergic to. When you wash it out, the tissue settles down. And if you do have allergies, irritants can make the symptoms worse.
So before you reach for an “allergy pill” doing some of the following actions may resolve the symptoms because it may not be an allergy at all. If you reach for the pill first, you may be medicating unnecessarily. Or if it is an allergic reaction, you may be overdosing when smaller doses will do.

1. Probably the very best thing to do is to use a neti pot. A neti pots is a little vessel that looks like an aladdin’s lamp. It is used to wash out the nose and clear the irritants from your nose hairs and turbinates (skull bones that form a maze behind your nose) that trap particulates and keep them from your lungs. There are internet sites that show you how to use a neti pot, so I won’t describe it here. (See one at: http://www.thegreenhead.com/2006/11/neti-pot-nasal-passage-cleanser.php as an example.) I have had clients who swear by the use of this simple, old-fashioned device. Here’s my latest testimonial:
“I first heard about a Neti pot about a year ago and didn’t think it sounded very appealing or like anything I would even consider doing. Because I have allergies and occasional sinus problems I eventually decided to try the Neti Pot. My first few attempts were sloppy, and I really didn’t enjoy using it. I did begin to notice a big difference in my sinuses however. I now use my Neti Pot about two or three times a week and love it. Not only does it clear my sinuses, it also keeps them from drying out during the winter. I love my Neti Pot now and look forward to using it. I describe the results as the fresh, clean smell of the air at the beach. I highly recommend it. “ Margaret K.
I have been asked by clients how often they have to use a neti pot. I reply by asking them how often they bathe. When they tell me “every day,” I respond by saying that using a neti pot is the respiratory system’s bath. Daily washing will only help your respiratory system keep clean.

2. When you go out, think about putting some Vaseline or a similar product at the very bottom of the lining of each nostril. This can potentially trap the flying debris and keep it “glued” to the outside of your body, rather than letting it go up through your sinuses.

3. Wash your face and hands after coming indoors or after touching your pets.

4. Wash your hair and change your clothes. Being outdoors means that all that stuff is trapped in your hair and on your clothing. So don’t wear the same clothing, especially around your face, day after day. Your hair should be washed, especially before going to bed, where your face rubs all over your pillowcase. And wash the pillowcase nightly too, especially if you want to be efficient at this cleaning thing.

5. Wear a hat and eyeglasses/goggles if you are going to be outdoors for a long time, or in the wind. This keeps your hair and eyes from collecting the unseen debris.

6. Close the windows in your house and car on days when the particulates are especially bothersome. If you need to, use an air conditioner (but be sure that the filters are clean!)

7. Use an air purifier next to your bed or desk or any place that you stay for many hours. An air purifier only works in the immediately adjacent area, so don’t expect miracles from one little machine. And keep the filters clean!

8. Reduce the degree of irritants and allergens by being conscious of what you put into the surroundings in your home and car. Because changing your home and car is a more expensive endeavor, you can be mindful of these things when redecorating or buying a new car:
•Put in hardwood floors rather than new wall-to-wall carpet;
•Use leather furniture rather than fabric; (or use fabric furniture covers that are easily washed and replaced:
•Don’t have drapes or fabric wall art that collects dust easily, (use blinds, shutters, or easily washed curtains)
•Keep your dog’s hair short and bathe him/her more frequently;
•Don’t let the dog sleep in your bed. (yeah, right!)
•Install leather seats in your next car—no fabric.

9. Get regular acupuncture. Acupuncture has been recognized by western medicine as one of the modalities that helps reduce allergies. Sites such as www.WebMd.com have many articles that talk about how acupuncture has been found to help many people permanently. To be effective for seasonal allergies, don’t wait til spring to start. What you do in the seasons before spring will have an impact on the following seasons.
These steps should help reduce the junk in your nose, eyes and lungs, so that symptoms may be more easily managed. If, however, you are still bothered by symptoms, the most effective medications available over the counter tend to be really expensive, with the cost being close to a buck a pill. (They know when they have you over a barrel, huh?)

If you are a client of an acupuncturist or Chinese herbalist, you can ask if she prescribes any herbal supplements. I prescribe a very inexpensive formula (it has a Chinese name that nobody remembers, but I call it “magic snot pill”) and the cost is extremely low compared to the OTC western stuff (about 7 bucks for 100 pills/taken 2 at a time). Even my neighbors show up every spring to get some.

Spring is so wonderful that it would be a shame for you to miss out on any part of it, or feel too symptomatic to enjoy the season’s wonders. With a little consciousness, some effort at cleaning your respiratory organs and your environment, and doing some complementary medicine (acupuncture and herbs) you can be relieved of your cabin fever of winter, and be out in nature during all it’s blooming bounty.

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Samantha Kadrmas M.Ac, L.Ac

Samantha Kadrmas M.Ac, L.AcI began my journey in acupuncture as a patient in 2003. It seemed that everywhere I went I heard people praising the value of acupuncture and how it was positively benefiting their lives. I was curious to see how acupuncture could change my life too. I quickly found myself walking through the world with more ease and experiencing more stable emotions than ever before. My senses were opened, my immune system incredibly strong, and my wellness came from within. More About Samantha

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