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Easy ways to beat allergies, sinus pain

October 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Every year, Americans spend over $3 million on allergy medications. If you suffer from allergies or sinus problems - you already know we're being hit by hot, gusty, Santa Ana winds. Not only does the dry air irritate nasal passages - but the winds whip up pollens, making things worse. In Southern California, those super dry Santa Ana's are hard on allergy sufferers. With gusts up to 40 miles an hour, the concentration of pollen is higher, and lots of people are feeling it.

"The air quality is very poor. It makes it very difficult to breathe and to sleep at night time. It is just a big challenge," said Alice Haliburton, who suffers from allergies.

"There is a lot more in the air. The recent fires did not help," said Dr. Ronald Roth, St. John's Health Center. "We get all of the winds off of the deserts that come in carrying all of the pollens and dust that may not normally be in the atmosphere locally."

Santa Ana's can cause a sudden drop in humidity, and that can swell mucus membranes. When that happens, people often feel pain over their sinuses and get headaches. And unlike having a cold or the flu which takes a while to develop, your nasal passages and sinuses react immediately to the presence of allergens, so many feel it right away.

It can get worse at night.

"One of the reasons is you can get pollen in your hair. Then when you lay down on your pillow a lot of those pollens get concentrated in your pillow and then you're actually getting exposed," said Dr. Roth.

So, where you can find relief? Fortunately, there are a few options.

"We've got a lot of new stuff. We've got a lot of anti-allergy nasal sprays that are topical. And we have a lot of non-sedating antihistamines now that people can take -- both prescription and non-prescription," said Dr. Roth.

One old fashioned remedy for both allergies and sinus pain -- use a humidifier.

And if you don't have one, a low tech approach is to simply hang a wet towel over a doorway. And nasal washes are very helpful in getting rid of pollen.

And since pollen counts increase at night, doctors suggest keeping your windows closed when you go to bed.


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