Healthy Body

Seasonal Allergies Attacking? This MD-Approved Facial Massage Can Help

Photo: Getty/ raquel arocena torres
Ahhh, spring: What a beautiful time to have strangers and friends think you're crying because your immune system is tussling with pollen and ragweed. Seasonal allergies can be really frustrating, but the good news is that there are certifiable tricks and techniques to hide up your sleeve (along with some tissues).

Allergy responses start because you've come in contact with allergens, but a lot of them might be invisible to you, says Harvey Kaufman, MD, senior medical director at Quest Diagnostics, with a specialization in allergy testing. "Understanding the cause of your allergies and identifying sensitivity plays a pivotal role in managing seasonal allergies," Dr. Kaufman says. Allergy tests, that involve pricking your skin with various allergens, can uncover what exactly you're allergic to and how to proceed. Additionally, Dr. Kaufman says wiping down your face, rinsing your eyes with cold, clean water, washing your hands that you might be rubbing your eyes with are all vital steps to quelling an in-the-moment response.

You can also keep medications like antihistamines nearby. These medications act as a bouncer in the body, so to speak, and get the allergy symptom flare to subside. They also dry out your sinuses, which can relieve many mucusy symptoms. "A big misperception is that using medications early makes them less helpful, but the opposite is actually true," says Kara Wada, MD, allergist, and immunologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Starting medications early helps keep allergies from getting more severe and give them time to take effect." (If you have more serious responses like asthma symptoms or have some allergies that illicit the very dangerous anaphylaxis response from the body, you need to be prepared with the right medicines like inhalers or EpiPens, Dr. Kaufman says.)

So, while these are tried-and-true allergy-relieving techniques, there's some anecdotal evidence that giving yourself a quick face massage might help alleviate some of your sinus-related allergy symptoms.

Why would facial massage work for allergy symptoms

Your facial sinuses are like major highways in your face. These highways are all connected, and there are some major cavities in your cheeks that lead to your throat. Because of this, a facial massage might help quell that oh-my-god-I'm-drowning-in-mucus feeling if performed properly, Dr. Kaufman says.

How to give yourself a facial massage for seasonal allergies

"Some people find that massaging your temples, the area between the cheekbones and the upper jaw, or the area between your nasal bone and the corner of the eyes may help with relief," says Dr. Kaufman.

Why? Mucus and inflammation can build up pressure in these areas and cavities, which can lead to headaches or a "stuffed up" feeling. Rubbing these areas for 10 seconds each from top to bottom can loosen the "stuffed up" sensation and relieve some of that pressure.

Another way to massage your sinuses, says Dr. Kaufman, is by using your index fingers. Place them just above the crease and below the bridge of the nose, he says. "Firmly (but not too hard) push inward, guiding your index fingers down towards the crease and then moving outward so that the index fingers travel just below the cheekbones," he says. You should be able to feel your sinuses opening as the skin around your mid-face gently moves outward as you continue guiding your index fingers outward to where your cheekbones stop, he adds.

Dr. Kaufman stresses that this may help relieve symptoms, but medicinal and sanitizing efforts are also really important. The research on this technique is inconclusive, but some studies point to massage's ability to relieve nasal congestion. Once you finish your massage, make sure to blow your nose as well. Getting the mucus building up in your sinus cavities is the priority, which is why tissues can help a lot.

As previously mentioned, your sinuses are all connected, so these particular techniques can loosen the mucus closest to your nose and physically push it down and towards the pipe that leads to your throat.


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