Allergic to Dogs and Allergies in Dogs Resource

Irrigation (Nasal, Oral, Throat, Eye) and Allergies

The use of irrigation to help alleviate allergy associated nasal, oral, throat and eye mucous membrane irritation/ inflammation can be considered as function-related allergic to dogs natural allergy treatment.

Nasal Irrigation (also termed nasal douche or nasal lavange)

This ancient Indian hygiene practice involves flushing the nose and sinuses to remove debris, allergens and excess mucus whilst moistening the mucous membranes.

Though simple in concept, nasal irrigation is deemed to be a mild yet effective technique for many allergies when undertaken correctly. Aside from symptomatic relief (e.g. reducing sinus pressure and facial pain) it is said to lessen the need for antibiotics and other conventional allergy medications, and be more effective than nasal sprays (Pynnonen et al. 2007). For example, research has shown nasal irrigation reduces the need for antihistamines in children with seasonal allergies (Šlapak et al. 2008).

Types of Nasal Irrigation

In its simplest form, saline (salt water solution) is snorted from cupped hands but this approach is ineffective at removing debris. Alternatively, a dropper can be used to deposit a few drops of saline into one nostril whilst the head is tilted backwards. After a short while, the head is tilted forwards to allow the liquid to run out and the procedure is repeated with the other nostril.

The use of a Neti pot (termed Jala Neti in Yoga) is more elaborate and effective but still only makes use of gravity to ‘power’ the procedure. This technique involves a person, with their head tilted to the side, using the pot/container to deliver a saline solution to one nostril and allowing the flushed material to exit via the other nostril. Once clean, the head is tilted the other way and the procedure is carried out for the other nostril. Some people find that humming during the procedure increases its efficiency.

Nasal Irrigation and Neti Pot

Positive pressure techniques eradicate the need to place one’s head on the side.  In its most basic form, a squeezable container of water (preferably saline solution) with a nostril tip is used to deliver a stream to the nasal passages. A more elaborate method utilizes an electronic irrigation machine. This has the significant advantage of producing a controlled stream of saline at a safe pressure.

Good Practice and Considerations

When considering using any form of nasal irrigation, sterile water must be used in order to minimize the potential risk of microbial infection. Using untreated water/tap water is not recommended; it may contain possible harmful microbes if introduced to the body via the nasal route e.g. the amoeba Naegleria fowleri (Siddiqui and Khan 2014). In this context, sterile means:

  • The water used should have been boiled for 5 minutes and if stored in a clean, closed container should be used within one day. Alternatively,
  • You can use water that has been passed through a filter designed to remove harmful microbes, or
  • You can purchase water from a store labeled as ‘distilled’ or ‘sterile’.

In addition, it is preferable that the nasal irrigation solution used is:

  • Isotonic i.e. of suitable strength for the nasal cells so as not to cause irritation or damage. Solutions manufactured and formulated for a procedure such as nasal irrigation can be purchased from some pharmacists or natural health and food stores. Alternatively, sachets are available that can be mixed at home using sterile water to achieve the correct strength (isotonic) that is safe and comfortable to use. However, some people make their own version using one-quarter of a teaspoon of non-iodized table salt (with an optional one-quarter of a teaspoon of baking soda) dissolved in a cup (approx. 8 US oz or 237 ml) of lukewarm sterile water.
  • At around body temperature i.e. 98.6 °F or 37.0 °C

When using any equipment for nasal irrigation good hygiene is important; given that it should be washed and dried every time before re-using, dishwasher-safe equipment is preferable. Replace nasal tips on a regular basis, and because droppers, syringes or Neti pots have the potential to harbor undesirable germs, replace these every few months.

Although nasal irrigation is usually considered a mild treatment, there are possible issues associated with its usage. Nasal irritation or earache (otalgia) can occur in some people and if the person develops a nose bleed, headache or a fever, advice from a practitioner should be considered. In addition, one should be aware that opinions vary as to what constitutes good practice concerning the frequency and duration of using nasal irrigation. Some people advocate regular, and even daily (morning and night), usage whereas others recommend using it in moderation due to the risks associated with modifying the immunological biochemistry of the nose e.g. it may result in a higher incidence of infections (Nsouli et al. 2009).

Oral and Throat Irrigation

Mouth Rinsing and Throat Gargling

As we learned in symptoms of allergies to dogs, allergens do not just exert their influence in the nasal cavity and its membranes, but can also enter the mouth, throat and airways into the lungs. Given that nasal irrigation has been shown to be effective at flushing out allergens, is this approach beneficial when applied to the mouth and throat?

Although research on this is hard to come by, circumstantial evidence to the effectiveness of mouth rinsing and throat gargling suggests that this simple act not only produces relief in the region gargled but also  ‘general’ allergy relief to some degree. The latter is probably the result of overall allergen levels in the body being reduced.

What relief can rinsing and gargling provide in the mouth and throat region? Itching at the roof of the mouth is symptomatic of allergic rhinitis whilst irritation, congestion and inflammation of the throat and airways are not only troublesome by themselves but can also lead to sleep disturbances. Such symptoms are more common for allergies to pollen, dust and pets but can also occur with other allergies. Tingling sensations and swelling in these regions is more commonly associated with allergies to food and medicines or when a person is experiencing a severe allergic reaction.

A possible schedule for rinsing and gargling for allergies could be as follows:

  • Start by taking in a mouthful of water and sloshing it around the mouth for a minute or so whilst breathing through the nose. Spit out the water then repeat.
  • Next, gargle (throat) with fresh water for a minute or so before spitting it out and repeating. Discarding is preferable to just swallowing, as it lowers the allergen level, whereas swallowing transports the allergens elsewhere in the body.
  • Finally, rinse the mouth out.
  • Perform the procedure several times a day and at least in the morning and before bed.

Eye Irrigation

Eye Bathing

Eye bathing is said to help alleviate and soothe many of the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis by helping to flush out allergens that lead to itchy, reddened, watery and puffy eyes.

A simple method for adults is to immerse the face in a bowl of lukewarm water and through blinking and rolling the eyes, attempt to remove the irritant. It is said that better relief and improved sterility can be achieved by the addition of a teaspoon of non-iodized table salt or boric acid to a wash bowl of lukewarm water.

Commercial eye bathing kits are available at pharmacists and contain an eye bath, which is used in conjunction with the supplied sterile, isotonic eye wash. Eye cups that are designed to bathe the eye effectively can also be purchased separately from pharmacists, as can the eye wash solution. Use of a commercial solution is preferable to using tap water and homemade concoctions because:

  • The strength of the solution is manufactured specifically for eye use and is isotonic.
  • The sterile solution will reduce the risk of causing an eye infection. However, in order to minimize the risk of cross contamination (and in case the person has bacterial conjunctivitis in one of their eyes) one should use a different eye cup containing fresh eye wash for each eye.
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