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What is the Impact of Allergic Rhinitis?

If you suffer from allergies, you may experience the following: frequent sneezing, your mouth and/or nose feeling itching, stuffy nose, and/or watery eyes. Allergic rhinitis is a condition that affects 40 to 60 million Americans, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Allergic rhinitis is commonly referred to as hay fever. Allergies can be seasonal, with symptoms being triggered in spring, summer, and early fall due to pollens and mold spores that go airborne. However, people also experience perennial allergic rhinitis caused by pet hair or dander, mold, or dust mites. Furthermore, environmental pollution such as smog, secondhand smoke, cleaning products, etc. can also trigger allergy inflammation. It has been reported by the Department of Biomedical Engineering that allergic rhinitis is the sixth most common chronic illness around the world with approximately $5.6 billion annually spent on medical costs and other indirect costs.

Diagnosing Your Allergy Triggers

To be properly diagnosed your doctor may recommend that you see an allergist. Your allergist will start by asking you a variety of questions looking for clues in your lifestyle that will help determine what is causing your symptoms. Furthermore, your allergist may recommend a skin test, which is generally the easiest and least expensive way of identifying allergens. The skin test places small amounts of suspected allergens under your skin. Once you have determined what types of allergens trigger your systems you can start to find ways of managing your symptoms. Allergy relief comes in a variety of options including avoidance of allergy triggers, immunotherapy, and medication. Additionally, a variety of studies have been done to look at the relief that infrared saunas can provide to allergy sufferers to relieve chronic symptoms.

Benefits of Infrared Heat to Treat Allergies

Traditional saunas use heat to warm the air around you, while an infrared sauna heats your body directly. Infrared saunas are one of the few mediums that provide infrared heat in a controlled environment. Infrared heat is an invisible electromagnetic wave with a wavelength longer than that of visible light that helps improve blood flow. Saunas cause vigorous sweating and an increased heart rate, similar to the effects triggered by moderate exercise. If you cannot tolerate the heat of a conventional sauna, a more accessible way to achieve these effects would be through an infrared sauna because they produce the same results at lower temperatures.

A study done by the Department of Biomedical Engineering involved 31 patients with allergies. The patients received infrared light treatment in their nasal region for 40 minutes every morning for seven days. Patients recorded their symptoms in a diary and rated their symptoms on a four-point scale, according to severity. Patients reported improvements in sneezing, nasal stuffiness, eye, and nasal itching during the period of therapy. Additionally, no obvious adverse effects were reported or observed during treatment and follow-up with the patients. Researchers concluded that infrared heat may serve as a treatment option for allergic rhinitis and could help to improve symptoms for people who suffer from it.

Strengthening Nasal Flow and Lung Function for Allergy Patients

Another study found that infrared saunas may be used to treat the body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is responsible for immune response. In allergy suffers, the ANS favored hyper-activity when triggered by allergy stimulants causing a variety of symptoms of itchy, watery eyes, congestion, and more.

The findings from researchers at the School of Physical Therapy, Khon Kaen University, Thailand were published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology in June 2013. The study focused on lung function and peak nasal inspiratory flow in patients with allergies by treating the ANS over a six-week treatment period with infrared saunas. A total of 26 patients diagnosed with allergic rhinitis were split into two groups. One group received informative health education and maintained a normal life. The second group received sauna treatment over six weeks. Patients in the second group did three days of sauna therapy each week. They did six sets of treatment for five minutes each, totaling 30 minutes per day. In both groups the baseline characteristics were comparable. Lung function and nasal inspiratory flow were both measured at the beginning, after three weeks and after six weeks of sauna treatment. Researchers monitored and measured heart rate variability to study the autonomic nervous response.

After six weeks of infrared sauna treatment, medical investigators found there were significant changes in heart rate variability which points to a positive change in ANS for treatment of allergic rhinitis. The overactive element of the ANS was lower while the low-frequency inhibit component was elevated in the sauna treatment group, compared to the control patients. Sauna patients measured significantly higher nasal flow and forced expiratory volume as well. According to the study, six weeks of repeated sauna treatment can increase respiratory volume and sympathetic activity in people with allergic rhinitis.

While larger more intense studies are being done to confirm these findings, no adverse effects have been reported with the infrared sauna studies. So if you may be considering alternative treatments for allergy relief, an infrared sauna may be an option to alleviate your allergy symptoms.

Resources: Department of Biomedical Engineering, Chung-Yuan Christian University, Chung-Li, 32023 Taiwan, ROC.; American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; Brent A. Bauer, MD, Mayo Clinic; Kunbootsri N, Janyacharoen T, Arrayawichanon P, Chainansamit S, Kanpittaya J, Auvichayapat P, Sawanyawisuth K. The effect of six-weeks of sauna on treatment autonomic nervous system, peak nasal inspiratory flow and lung functions of allergic rhinitis Thai patients. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2013 June;31(2):142-147