Jake Nachlas, Summer Intern to Nathan E. Nachlas, MD
It’s Sunday afternoon, and you’re at the beach with your family. Or maybe you’re at the golf course enjoying a round of 18. It’s hot, so you keep reapplying sunscreen, at least I hope! You’re lying there, listening to music, feeling the breeze from the ocean hit your face, dipping your toes into the hot summer sand and watching the waves crash one after one after one after one. You can smell the salt from the ocean and the freshness of the air. Or maybe you’re on Hole 9, three below par, and the scent of the grass and the view of a cloudless sky over the green overwhelm your fear of the Par 5 ahead of you, of making one bad drive. You tee up, take a few practice swings, pull the driver back, looking down at the ball trying not to comprehend the breadth of the fairway. Then you swing, the club strikes th—ACHOOOO!
Oh no. The ball goes way off to the side, too far to count at least. You watch it curve to the right, landing in the trees from the top, bouncing off the branches to the bottom. You’re upset, but you’ll walk it off. You go back to the cart and begin your search for that little white ball of misery. As you drive by a few trees, your eye catches a beautiful litt—ACHOOO!
You stop the cart and try to shake your head back into it. But when you do, you feel light headed. You feel your eyelids soak up, eyes tearing, air running through your nose becomes inhibited. You’re at the point where it’s easier to keep your eyes closed than to fight for them to open. The view of the sky, gone. The smell of the grass, gone. The music on the beach loses its rhythm, all just big thumps now. One after one after one after one. The smell of salt in the ocean turns into heat, more heat beating on your face and the water in your eyelids quickly dries out. Your eyes become crus–ACHOOO!
Mastering the Art of Allergy Control
If you’re like me, you knew from the first sneeze that the worst was yet to come. If you’re like me, being out on the golf course or being at the beach instantly become imprisonment when you can’t breathe well. If you’re like me, you want to breathe better, it’s as simple as that. I hate being the one at the party or the one at the beach or the one at the golf course who suddenly can’t breathe and needs all the attention. No, the golf course is a place to free your mind, the beach is a place to forget about everything and let the breeze free your mind for you. If you’re like me, then you’ve come to the right place. If you don’t want to be a prisoner of breathing problems and want to master decongestion and allergy control, then read these few tips carefully. And in honor of the Rio Olympics just around the corner, here are some ways to help you breathe like a champion!
Bronze Medal: Over the Counter Decongestants
Decongestant pills are an approved, over-the-counter way to relieve congestion and nasal blockage or stuffiness. It’s sort of like having a panic button wherever you are, just to be safe. For me, it usually takes thirty minutes to an hour to feel noticeably relieved, but it may be different for others depending on the dosage. Decongestants 1) decrease the volume of blood in mucosa which leads to decongestion and 2) reduce blood flow into the mucosa which decreases the fluid associated with congestion. While they do provide quick relief to nasal blockage or stuffiness, their effects are short acting, they may cause a rise in blood pressure, and because of that I deem these over the counter pills worthy of a Bronze Medal.
Decongestant sprays also have their significant drawbacks. Their instant gratification attract many with allergies, but their addictive effect makes them very undesirable for anything other than very short term use.
Silver Medal: Nasal Saline Spray
Nasal Saline Spray is almost as effective as over-the-counter decongestants, and can be used long term without serious side effects. The saline solution flushes out the mucus, allowing you to breathe a little better.. In chronic sinusitis, they help make up for the lack of motility of the hairs on the cells of the lining of the nose. They are a useful adjunct to other allergy treatments. Because of this, I give Nasal Saline Spray the Silver Medal.
Gold Medal: Antihistamine nose sprays, steroid nose sprays, and antihistamines
There’s actually room at the top of the podium for all three. The last two, the steroid nose sprays and the antihistamines have the clear advantage of now being over the counter, which make their availability excellent. The antihistamine nose sprays, while not yet over the counter, often are used in conjunction with the other two.
These sprays all help to reduce the damage that allergies do to the tissues of the body. They reduce the inflammation caused by histamine release, and help counteract the bothersome swelling in the nose which result from allergies.
After the Olympics – Getting those Allergies under Control: Allergy Testing, Sublingual Allergy Drops and Allergy Shots
Ongoing allergy symptoms can be quite bothersome. While medications, either alone or in combination, can temporarily provide some relief, ultimately they are there to mitigate the damage that the allergies have caused. Getting at the core of the issue involves making a person less susceptible to allergies – turning off the body’s response to specific allergic stimuli. This is done by fortifying the immune system so that it no longer is as reactive to stimuli.
Allergy Testing and Immunotherapy (either allergy shots or sublingual allergy drops) are a really effective way of relieving allergies and breathing better in the long term. Taking sublingual allergy drops, more commonly known as SLIT (Sublingual Immunotherapy), is just as it sounds: a few drops under the tongue every day to build immunity to your wooorsstt nightmares!!! (allergies). They are an alternative to allergy shots, essentially using the same allergens to build up the recipient’s immune system. Before beginning immunotherapy, you need to first undergo allergy testing. Now I’m only a month into taking my drops but I’m already feeling a little better around common allergens, simply because I’ve built immunity to them. My body has become better at fighting them off. Not only do I have the drops but I also have the knowledge of what I’m allergic to, so when I’m out there on the golf course, I know it’s the grass that really got me going. Or when I’m on the beach, I know the mold or the beach grass or the firewood from the barbecue set me off.
Just one last word – Balloon Sinuplasty
One current confusion that many have is that Balloon Sinuplasty is another treatment for allergies. It’s not. It is a wonderful and popular procedure for relieving suffering in patients with blocked sinuses. Allergies, because they cause swelling in the affected tissues, can cause severe nasal and sinus symptoms – congestion, obstruction, headache, drainage, etc. Sometimes the medications cannot provide the desired relief. Sinus infections result from the mucous not being able to drain properly, thereby getting infected.
Balloon sinuplasty involves guiding a small balloon into the blocked areas of the sinuses, inflating it, deflating it, and removing it. The good news is that by relieving the blockage, the symptoms usually resolve. The bad news is that the allergies are still there. Balloon Sinuplasty is offered in patients with their full understanding and commitment to make sure that concomitant allergy control and treatment is performed.
The procedure has been done safely on tens of thousands of patients over the last 10 to 15 years with extremely high success rates and extremely low complaint rates. This procedure may not be the first resort, but it sure makes a fantastically reliable last resort, and there’s nothing else to say about that (other than of course to make sure that the allergies stay under good control).
Leave it to a Sinus Doctor
If you want to breathe better, there are plenty of ways to do it. From meditation to heavy breaths to any of the things I mentioned here, having a clear nose is the way to go, especially for anyone who regularly exercises or simply just needs to think straight. So take a deep breath, one after one after one after one, and know that after reading this blog you understand more than a few ways to relieve your stuffy nose or control your allergy symptoms. What’s next is acting on it and taking care of your own self. That’s a priority everyone has. And of course, a little help from a sinus doctor never hurts, so if you have any questions about allergy control, finding the right way to breathe better or a blocked sinus cavity, don’t hesitate! Fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
– Jake Nachlas