By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (December 30, 2004)—A petrolatum-based cream applied to the outside of the nose reduces runny nose, sneezing, and itching of the nose caused by allergies, according to the Archives of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery (2004;130:979–84).
Allergies are immune system overreactions to substances in the air or in foods. The classic symptoms of allergies to airborne substances include rhinitis (runny nose), sneezing, coughing, and itching of the eyes, ears, mouth, or skin. Reactions to pollens can cause seasonal allergies, while dust, dust mites, and animal dander are common causes of year-round allergies. Allergies are often treated with antihistamines, decongestants, and sometimes corticosteroids. These medications can cause side effects such as sleepiness, overstimulation, and some heart irregularities. Air purifiers and household dust control measures can reduce the amount of allergen in the immediate environment and reduce the need for medications in some people. In recent years, reports have suggested that nasal ointments and creams, applied to the openings of the nostrils to prevent allergens from entering the airways, can be helpful in relieving allergy symptoms.
In the current study, 91 people with allergies to pollen, dust mites, or animal dander were randomly assigned to receive either a pollen-blocker cream (a petrolatum-based ointment known as Alergol®) or a water-based placebo cream. The participants were instructed to apply their ointment or cream to the outer nostrils four times per day at four-hour intervals for three days. The three-day test was then repeated, with those who had used the pollen-blocker cream receiving placebo and those who had used placebo receiving the pollen-blocker cream. A device was used to expose each individual to a burst of airborne allergens and to measure allergic reactions at the beginning of the study and at the end of each treatment period. Each time the device was used, nasal airflow was measured to determine the degree of nasal blockage and participants scored their symptoms (rhinitis, sneezing, and itching).
Responses to the pollen-blocker cream were similar for the people who used it in the first treatment phase and those who used it in the second treatment phase, and were significantly better than the responses to placebo. Using the pollen-blocker cream increased airflow by 20% and decreased symptoms by 75%, while the placebo increased airflow by only 10% and decreased symptoms by 25%. Approximately 75% of the participants experienced significant allergy symptom relief while using the pollen-blocker cream.
The results of this study suggest that a petrolatum-based nasal ointment can be effective in reducing allergic symptoms in people with allergies to airborne substances. The allergic symptoms of 25% of the participants in this study did not improve with the cream, leading the researchers to speculate that this treatment may only work in people who breathe through their noses, rather than through their mouths. More research is needed to confirm the speculations and findings of this study.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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