Crossing Allergies Off the Migraine Trigger List & Adding Nasal Irrigation as a New Treatment

Of the 33 allergens tested for in a basic allergy panel, I’m allergic to nothing. I’m happy with the results, even though it means crossing yet another possibility off the list. I used to get discouraged when I hit a dead end. I’m not now; just glad to not have to deal with allergy shots.

The allergist thinks I’m one of about 20% of people who have nonallergic rhinitis. These folks aren’t bothered by typical allergenic inhalants, but by a host of other possibilities, including odors, irritants in the air, weather changes, medications… Mayo Clinic’s definition of rhinitis:

If you do have rhinitis, the lining of your nose swells due to expanding blood vessels. The mucus glands in your nose get stimulated, causing a congested, drippy nose. The symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis are similar to those of hay fever (allergic rhinitis), but there’s no allergic reaction involved.

The treatment is a simple spray of intranasal corticosteroids, like Flonase. Great news, right? Except that a study written up in this month’s issue of the journal Cephalalgia indicates nasal steriod sprays can trigger migraines! I’m going to try it, but nasal irrigation (with a neti pot) might be a better solution. You may have heard of nasal irrigation about a year ago, when Oprah praised its benefits.

Using a neti pot is simple. Basically, you pour a saline solution up one nostril and it comes out the other. I won’t lie — it feels bad and weird at first. It takes patience to put up with the initial unpleasantness. Once you get the hang of it, nasal irrigation actually becomes pleasurable! Here’s how it works:

I’ve never used a neti pot consistently, but am always pleasantly surprised by how my sinuses feel afterward. It’s an easy, inexpensive treatment to try. Neti pots, some of which come with salt packets, are $10-20 on Amazon. Making your own saline solution is simple and much less expensive. The basic recipe is 1/4 teaspoon non-iodized salt to 1 cup warm water. (Distilled or purified water is preferred. To use tap water, bring it to a boil, then let it cool before using it.) You can choose to add extra ingredients. A 1/4 teaspoon baking soda makes the solution more soothing. You can keep your nose from drying out by adding 1/4 teaspoon glycerin.

I’m dedicated to giving nasal irrigation another shot. I’ll do it every day for a week, starting today. If you’re interested, you can track my progress on Twitter. How about you? Does it sound like a good treatment or does it just gross you out?

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