A nasal rinse is often touted as a natural remedy for seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever). Often referred to as a sinus rinse or nasal irrigation, a nasal rinse is a do-it-yourself treatment that involves using salt water to clear your nasal passages. While there is limited research on the effectiveness of a nasal rinse, studies suggest that a nasal rinse may be of some benefit to people with allergies.
The Science Behind Nasal Irrigation and Allergies
To date, few studies have tested the use of a nasal rinse in treatment of allergies. The available research includes a 2008 report from the Wisconsin Medical Journal. Out of 21 study members who used a nasal rinse to treat their allergies, 12 participants reported an improvement in their symptoms. The study also found that a nasal rinse may help ease symptoms of asthma.
A number of other studies have examined the use of a nasal rinse among children with seasonal allergies. For instance, a 2003 study from Pediatric Allergy and Immunology assigned 10 hay-fever-plagued children to treatment with nasal irrigation (performed three times daily throughout pollen season). After six weeks, the children showed a significantly greater decrease in allergy symptoms (such as nasal itching and sneezing) compared to the 10 study participants who did not undergo nasal irrigation. What's more, members of the nasal irrigation group showed a greater decrease in their use of antihistamine medications.
How to Perform a Nasal Rinse
Many drugstores and health food stores sell nasal irrigation kits and neti pots (a type of ceramic pot long used in ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India). You can also make your own nasal irrigation kit with this simple recipe.
While a nasal rinse is generally considered safe, it may cause gagging, coughing, or ear pain in some cases. If you're thinking of using a nasal rinse to treat your allergies, asthma, post-nasal drip, or any other health condition, talk to your doctor before performing the procedure.
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Garavello W, Romagnoli M, Sordo L, Gaini RM, Di Berardino C, Angrisano A. "Hypersaline nasal irrigation in children with symptomatic seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized study." Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2003 Apr;14(2):140-3.
Li H, Sha Q, Zuo K, Jiang H, Cheng L, Shi J, Xu G. "Nasal saline irrigation facilitates control of allergic rhinitis by topical steroid in children." ORL J Otorhinolaryngol Relat Spec. 2009;71(1):50-5.
Rabago D, Guerard E, Bukstein D. "Nasal irrigation for chronic sinus symptoms in patients with allergic rhinitis, asthma, and nasal polyposis: a hypothesis generating study." WMJ. 2008 Apr;107(2):69-75.