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Biology, Sustainability

Allergies, climate change, and sinus rinses

I’m an allergy sufferer. I always have been but they seem to have been getting worse in the last number of years. I’m allergic to peanuts but that one is pretty manageable, even with its life threatening-ness. It’s the environmental allergies that are really getting to me. The hay fever for weeks or more in the spring, often with a resurgence in the fall get to the point of unbearable. Particularly when going inside doesn’t seem to come with much relief. This led me to two questions, is it me or the allergens that are changing? Is there anything I can do other than more drugs and possibly allergy shots?

Let’s start with the first question. It turns out that air pollutants actually make the body more likely to go into an allergic reaction because they act as an adjuvant. An adjuvant is basically something that enhances the body’s response to an antigen, which is kind of like the id tag on a cell. So increasing air pollutants increases the body’s response to allergens. Climate change is increasing the abundance of, and human exposure, to airborne particles (Reinmuth-Selzle et al, 2017). Thus, allergies are increasing.

For the second question, Hermelingmeier et al (2012) conducted a systematic review of the research on saline nasal irrigation (i.e. spraying specially salted sterile water into your sinuses). They found that the sinus rinses resulted in a ~30% improvement in nasal syptoms, 62% less medication, 31% improvement in time for clearing mucus, and 20% improvement in quality of life.

It’s interesting that there was such a large reduction in use of medications, disproportionate to the improvement of symptoms but I got to say I’m game to try. Anything seems better than being constantly chasing tissues for runny noses.

Have you tried any type of sinus rinse for your allergy symptoms? What were the results?

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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