woman with the sniffles, colds

You’ve probably never heard of NasalCrom nasal spray for allergies. It doesn’t get the kind of attention that many other allergy treatments receive.

There are commercials for antihistamines like Claritin (loratadine) Xyzal (levocetirizine) or Zyrtec (cetirizine). There are also corticosteroid nasal sprays such as Flonase (fluticasone), Nasacort (triamcinolone) and Nasonex (mometasone). The commercials make it seem as if such products are the ideal solution to solving allergy symptoms.

They may have their place, but we really like NasalCrom because it is neither an antihistamine nor a steroid. To quote the famous Apple computer ad from decades ago: “Think Different.”

Q. I read in a health newsletter a few years ago that OTC NasalCrom would help allergies. My husband suffered with runny nose and nasal congestion for years.

After using NasalCrom, his allergy totally disappeared. I didn’t have to iron many handkerchiefs after that, so I was delighted!

A. NasalCrom is different from all other allergy medications. It contains cromolyn, which stabilizes the mast cells in the nose responsible for many, if not most, allergy symptoms.

Mast Cells Cause a LOT of Mischief:

Mast cells are found in your eyes, nose and lungs (and other places in your body) that are highly sensitive to allergens.

Think of mast cells as floating mines. When they come into contact with allergens like ragweed pollen or dust mite poop, a switch gets thrown on these cellular “mines” and all hell breaks loose.

Mast cells start releasing histamine and other chemicals called kinins (pronounced KYE-nins), which then turn on a cascade of other nasty things like leukotrienes and prostaglandins. The end result is sneezing, itching, inflammation, and congestion.

Stabilizing Mast Cells:

If you can stabilize mast cells and make them less sensitive to allergens they appear to be less likely to trigger the release of all those nasty chemicals described above. That way you can prevent symptoms at the source of the problem.

We think such an approach may be more logical than trying to block the effect of histamine with antihistamines. And we think it is safer that squirting steroids in your nose on a regular basis. Some of the corticosteroid is absorbed into your body.

Shutting the Barn Door BEFORE the Horses get Out:

Think of it this way. If your mast cells are like a barn holding in a bunch of wild horses (histamine molecules), then what would be more efficient–reinforcing the door and walls of the barn to keep those wild histamines inside or trying to protect all the grass in your pasture from having those histamine “horses” nibbling away at it? Antihistamines are like a chemical barrier that trys to protect your grass once the horses are out of the barn. But they are not 100 percent efficient, and some histamine will always find a target and wreak havoc. Keeping the barn closed tightly (or the mast cells stabilized) seems to us to be a more effective approach.

Nasalcrom to the Rescue:

Cromolyn (NasalCrom) was first introduced as a prescription product in 1983. NasalCrom went over the counter in 1997. Cromolyn, the active ingredient in NasalCrom, was originally derived from an herb, the fruit of bishop’s weed (Ammi visnaga), which was traditionally used to treat asthma.

The compound cromolyn stabilizes highly sensitive mast cells in the lining of the nose and lungs so they can better resist the onslaught of pollen. It won’t cause drowsiness or cognitive impairment and, if used regularly, it is quite effective. Unlike decongestant nose sprays, there is no need to fear developing dependency.

Side Effects:

Cromolyn is very safe and does not cause drowsiness or rebound nasal congestion the way OTC nasal decongestants can. Some people may experience temporary sneezing, nasal burning, or a bad taste in their mouth.

Downside:

You must use NasalCrom at least four times a day to really benefit. Some experts believe it is less effective than intranasal corticosteroids. We suggest that it is safer and worth a try if you are the kind of person who can spritz your nostrils three to four times daily on a regular basis.

Share your own experience with cromolyn below in the comment section.

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  1. Angie
    Springfield, MO
    Reply

    After reading the comments regarding Nasalcrom, I decided to give it a try. Although congestion is not an issue for me, I suffer from inflammation, itching, watery eyes, and a bitter, sometimes burning sensation on my tongue. Mast cell inhabition was an appealing approach to my battle to control inflammation and allergic responses.

    However, after doing additional research, I learned one of its ingredients, benzalkonium chloride, is extremely toxic; therefore have discontinued its use. As a result, I question the support of the product by People’s Pharmacy. Can anyone shed additional light on this information?

  2. Ro
    Illinois
    Reply

    I really like using Nasalcrom and have used it since it came out, but every pharmacy/pharmacy department I’ve been to no longer carries it, so I ended up ordering it online.

  3. Dick
    Florida
    Reply

    is it advisable to add Chromolyn to a fluticasone nasalspray regimen

  4. Hank
    left coast
    Reply

    Back when people smoked tobacco indoors, I used cromolyn sodium all the time (lifetime tobacco allergy). Very effective stuff.

  5. Jeianette
    West Seneca, NY 14224
    Reply

    Where can I purchase NasalCrom?
    Thank you
    Jeanette Z

  6. Richard T
    South Africa
    Reply

    I live in South Africa and have a problem with sneezes that go on and on. Closest product I can find is called Stop-Allergy eye drops containing sodium cromoglycate. I decided to use it sprayed up my nose in a fine mist and used when the first sneeze starts it stops me sneezing further. Thanks for a useful bit of advice.

  7. Healthnut
    Reply

    I buy Veriditas essential oils and have found that using peppermint in boiling water helps clear congestion instantly! I also put it on my clothes to where I can smell it when I go out and it also helps.

  8. RWW
    WI
    Reply

    I have been using NasalCrom since the mid 1980s. Before that I had severe allergies that shots could not help. I had allergies year round with many sensitivities.

    After starting NasalCrom…no more shots or antihistamines. I have been virtually allergy-free unless I stop using Nasalcrom. Even then I am much better.

  9. Anon
    U.S.
    Reply

    I had completely forgotten about NasalCrom. I took it in the early ’80s and it worked like a champ! Wow. This was a blast from the past and I’m glad I read it. I incorrectly thought it was an antihistamine. I am passing this article along to a friend whose mother has tried everything.

  10. jan
    California
    Reply

    I have used cromolyn inhalers (Intal) for years through a spinhaler..and loved it! No steroids! Then, it was no longer offered in the proper dose, with the advent of a myriad of steroid inhalers hitting the market.

    NasalCrom works as promised, too, and it is definitely worth trying FIRST before adding steroids!

    Thanks so much for posting this advisory!!

  11. Jenifer A.
    Southern California
    Reply

    I read your piece on NasalCrom with keen interest. I am allergic to pet dander and ragweed, among other things. I take cetirizine daily to allow me to be near my son’s dogs (whom I love) and to function outdoors. I read that NasalCrom can have long-term negative effects on nasal mucosa (“Benzalkonium chloride in nasal decongestive sprays has a long-lasting adverse effect on the nasal mucosa of healthy volunteers.”
    Hallén H, et al. Clin Exp Allergy. 1995.) I would appreciate your comments on this study.

  12. Marie
    Florida
    Reply

    I used cromolyn for a year in the early 90’s and complained many times to my allergist who had prescribed it that it burned my nose. He insisted that I keep using it, even saying “his family used it and had no problem”. I stopped it on my own but by the time I did, I had lost most of my sense of smell which never recovered. No cromolyn for me!!!

  13. Sandy
    Dallas, TX
    Reply

    I’ve been using Nasalcrom for years. It’s one of the three or four sprays that I do use. I also use XClear and a homeopathic spray. I recently found Rebound which helps with congestion, but I try not to let it get that far.

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