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Usually during the months of March and August, I start seeing the TV commercials with the annoying bee (why does he have that accent anyway?) and the happy people telling us to get Claritin Clear.  These commercials promise that you’ll be sneezing less, breathing easier and ready to work in the garden or play with your dog in just 24 hours.  Hmmm.  How exactly do these types of medicines work?  First, you have to understand nasal allergies in the first place.

You have likely heard the term “antihistamine”.  Histamine is a chemical in the body (a neuro-transmitter) that is typically released during an allergic reaction.  In the cases of severe allergic reactions, such as food allergies or bee stings, an epi-pen is used because the epinephrine contained in the pen is the only chemical that will eliminate the histamine.  If the histamine levels rise too high, the person could go into anaphylactic shock.  But those are extreme cases and don’t apply to the person who has the nagging, itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose with or without nasal congestion.

Rather than an epi-pen, people rely on other measures for relief of their day to day allergy symptoms.  The antihistamine is a popular form of relief, but it does not eliminate histamine as some people believe.  Antihistamines only block some of your body’s receptors to histamine, which seems to alleviate some of the nasal allergy symptoms.  Claritin is a medication known as a “second generation antihistamine” and its function is to block some of the histamine that is released when the person begins to have the allergic reaction.

Now, I’m not a doctor and I do not play one on TV.  This post is in no way meant to diagnose or treat illnesses.  But I think people should be AWARE, especially if they have small children (Claritin offers a dissolving pill option).  Side effects could include nervousness or restlessness, especially in children (do we really want that?), diarrhea, headache, nausea and vomiting.  Again, hmm.  More extreme cases saw irregular heartbeats, seizures, hives (aren’t those related to allergic reactions?) and even liver problems.  Sounds to me like trading an annoying and pesky issue for a much larger one.

Another measure of relief is the “corticosteroid”.  Now, before you picture ridiculously pumped up body builders, those are “anabolic” steroids….totally different.  Actually, corticosteroids are naturally released by the body’s own adrenal glands and help the body to deal with inflammation issues.  Corticosteroids can be found in nasal sprays, such as Nasonex (you know…the bee that sounds like Antonio Banderas).  The thought here is this:  nasal allergy symptoms are caused by inflammation of the nasal passages, which leads to nasal congestion and fluid being forced from the nasal passage, causing the runny nose.  If the corticosteroid can be shot up the nose, it will prevent the inflammation related to the allergic reaction.

I recently read that corticosteroids have been known to cause growth problems for children who use them.  What are some of the other side effects?  Most of them deal with nasal itching, burning and even ulcers.  Some recipients have problems with smell or taste and nosebleeds have occurred.  There have also been recipients whose throats became inflamed with regular use.  Obviously, not every user experiences side effects, but you should always have the facts FIRST.

As a mother who lives in the Midwest, I am all too familiar with allergies, mostly the seasonal variety.  I have sneezed, blown, itched and scratched with the best of them.  But as a mom who decided to be green, I decided to Just Say No to the medications if I could help it and find a healthier alternative.

I once saw a segment on the Dr. Oz show about neti pots.  Now, I had never heard of this before and I will tell you this:  you will never see anyone use a neti pot as gracefully as Dr. Oz!  His feeling is that cleaning your sinuses each day is just as important as brushing your teeth.  It all makes perfect sense and I couldn’t agree more.

See, the different allergy triggers (pollen, dander, etc.) enter your nose and are held there because they are trapped by the hairs and the fluids in the nose.  If your body is “allergic” to these triggers, you will experience the flow of histamine and your nasal passages will become inflamed, causing all of the symptoms we know, but don’t love so much.  By cleaning the nasal passages each day, you are basically sweeping out all of those triggers that have accumulated before your body has the chance to react.

Now, I won’t tell you that using a neti pot is easy the first time (or maybe even the second), but it’s definitely worth it.  There are very detailed instructions that come with it and my son actually uses a spray bottle system that works just as well for him.  Basically, you fill the pot or bottle with a sterile saline solution and warm water.  You lean with your head at a certain angle so that when you put the solution into one of your nostrils, it flows through the nasal cavity and out the other side.

The first time I had my son do it, he was about 10 years old.  We leaned over the tub and I told him to open his mouth wide and say AHHHHHH really loud.  I administered the solution into one nostril and it poured out the other side, bringing with it unspeakable gobs of grossness.  But as my grandma used to say, “better out than in”.  Indeed!

We have gotten much better with our daily ritual and Dr. Oz was onto something.  It’s as much a part of the routine as brushing our teeth.  So far, we have done really well.  My son at one point or another in his life was on Singulair, Claritin, Zyrtec or Nasonex.  Today, he takes NO medication of any kind.  He still plays outside, loves to pet dogs, and comes into contact with all kinds of allergy triggers.  And so far, so good.

I would never advise anyone to stop taking prescribed medication against the advice of a doctor.  However, if you’re concerned with the possible side effects of “prescribed chemicals” as I like to call them, talk to your doctor and try this natural alternative.  My family’s health goal is to only take in real food and real water and leave the chemicals on the shelves at the drugstore.

If you decide to try it, let me know how it worked for you.  Comment below and tell me about your experiences.

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