Mast cells, part of the cast of characters in the immune system, are the ringleaders of hypersensitivity reactions. Ordinarily they are peace loving. But when tissues are flooded with irritating compounds, mast cells become trigger-happy troublemakers, unable to distinguish friend from foe. A grain of pollen comes along; the mast cell sees it as life threatening, melts down, and spews histamine everywhere.
And what a mess histamine creates! Tender tissues in the throat, nose, and sinuses become hot and swollen. Abundant mucus is produced as a defense. Eyes become red and itchy. It wouldn’t be so bad if just a few mast cells were acting up. However, if they’re repeatedly triggered by pollen, food, or animal dander, they multiply by a factor of up to 10. When these specialized immune cells in your respiratory linings are triggered by pollen to release histamines, it spells trouble for your sinuses.
Here’s something you can do about it.
Increase drainage of clogged sinuses with alternating hot and cold compresses. Fill one bowl with hot (not scalding!) water, and one with cool (not icy!) water. Place a washcloth in each bowl. Squeeze out the cloth in the hot water and apply to your sinuses. Each time the cloth cools, dip it in the hot water and reapply. After 3 minutes, switch to the cold cloth and apply for 30 seconds. Repeat the procedure 2–3 times, ending with cold.