The official start of spring was earlier this year, and with that comes allergies, nasal allergies. Itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing. So what’s someone to do? Read the below advice I translated from my TCM doctor in Shanghai and see what can be done.


Prevention and Cure of Allergic Rhinitis

Every morning upon waking or on a day when the weather changes, do you experience the following symptoms: continuous sneezing–as many as 10 or more sneezes in a row, an itchy or very runny nose, nasal congestion, dizziness or headaches, black eye circles, dry mouth, and tiredness? There’s a very good chance you have a serious case of nasal allergies.

1)         What is allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis, commonly called nasal allergies, is a disease whereby the nasal mucosal membrane develops lesions inside of the nasal passage causing a reaction to allergens.  It is characterized by extreme sensitivity to such allergens as: pollen, fungus, dust, feathers, pesticides, certain foods (milk or starchy products), makeup, laundry detergent, varnish, cold air, etc.

2)         Why is allergic rhinitis harmful?

Since the nose is the foremost of the air-passageways, as pollutants from the air come into contact with the lesions that have built-up on the inside of the nasal passageways, they are more likely to enter the respiratory tract, causing respiratory diseases, and even triggering asthma.  As both foreign and [Chinese] domestic experts have explained, the key to respiratory health is protecting the mucosal membranes inside the nasal passageway.  From this point of view, it is very important to actively treat and control nasal disease to ensure respiratory health.

3)         How can you actively improve allergic rhinitis?

a.         Avoid Contact with Allergens.  In particular you must avoid spring flowers and their pollen by minimizing outdoor activities or get in the habit of wearing a mask, changing clothes as soon as you get back indoors, washing your hands and hair frequently, and showering more often to wash away the pollen.

b.         Homeopathic and Holistic Approaches. Currently, most medical therapy for rhinitis involves the use of corticosteroids; however, as with any medication, you can suffer side effects, face drug resistance after prolonged usage, or have the symptoms return once medication is stopped.  Traditional Chinese Medicine offers 3 alternatives:

(i)         Breathing Exercises. Practice breathing from the abdominals to improve respiratory ability, increase lung capacity, fully expel stagnant air from the lungs, improve pulmonary function, and allow for the full exchange of air.

Method: Stand with your body upright, relax all the muscles in your body, inhale through your nose, exhale through the mouth, and repeat inhaling, exhaling.  While exhaling, gently compress the abdomen forcing all the air out; then relax to inhale naturally, allowing the abdomen to slowly swell.  This should be done very, very slowly, at a ratio of 2:1 exhaling to inhaling, or 3:1; be careful not to get dizzy.  Normally you can complete about 10-12 full breaths in 1 minute, and this should be practiced for 15-20minutes.

(ii)            Early in the morning use cold water to clear the nasal passages; at night submerge the feet in warm water.

In the morning, just after getting out of bed, using cold water to flush the nasal passages helps to remove waste from the nasal passageways, contracts the blood vessels for improved circulation, and overall improves airflow through the nose.  Method: While rinsing with cold water, massage the nostrils to ensure full nasal discharge.  You can use saline solution, salt water, or pure water, inhaling through the nose and spitting out through the mouth.  When you first start to practice, you may feel like you’re downing in your nose or choking.  Don’t force the water in.  As you get more comfortable with this method, it will become easier and more natural.  For children, make sure they blow the water out completely to clear their nose.

At night time, prepare a hot water bath with ginger and cinnamon to improve circulation in your feet and warm them.  Medical research has found that the soles of the feet are rich in blood vessels and nerves, and have a connection to the nose. TCM meridian theory suggests that the kidney originated in the feet and therefore kidney Qi is closely related to respiratory function. Before going to bed, soak your feet in warm water to aid sleep, and to reduce morning allergy symptoms of sneezing, running nose, etc.

(iii)       Cure your winter ailments in summer.  Nasal allergies manifest strongest in spring and fall, but if year-round you are prone to cold limbs, are easily affected by cold air, feel weak and cold, and experience symptoms such as nasal discharge, itchy nose, and sneezing, you may suffer from a deficiency of Yang. If you do suffer from these symptoms, the best time to strengthen your yang is during the hottest days of summer when Yang is also at its strongest.  A TCM doctor can apply warming patches to certain acupuncture points and offer oral medicine to stimulate the meridians, strengthen the immune system, and improve overall health by attacking the root of the problem.

Your Health is our Greatest Happiness

臻田中醫診所  周臻妤 醫師

Dr. Vivienne Chou