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Should You Use NasalCrom for Your Allergies?

Decongestant nose sprays can be used for only a few days before you risk dependence. Using NasalCrom for your allergies is an alternative.

How do you manage your allergy symptoms? Sneezing, stuffiness and itchy red eyes are more than a bother. Unfortunately, many of the medicines you might take for relief can have unpleasant side effects. As just one example, you should use decongestant nasal sprays for no more than a few days. Otherwise, you could develop rebound congestion and find it difficult to stop using the spray. Several readers have found NasalCrom helpful. Should you take NasalCrom for your allergies?

NasalCrom Against Allergy-Related Sinusitis:

Q. My doctor recommended NasalCrom a few years ago. It works very well to lessen allergy-related sinusitis. The only downside is that my sense of smell is heightened when I use it frequently. Since I have a low tolerance for fragrances or other odors, this is a bit of a drawback.

A. NasalCrom (cromolyn) is a spray that stabilizes mast cells in the nasal passages. These cells release histamine and other inflammatory compounds when they are exposed to allergens. Stabilizing them prevents the symptoms that accompany histamine release. In theory, a person using NasalCrom would not need any antihistamines for allergy symptoms.

The Origins of NasalCrom:

Cromolyn was introduced as a prescription medicine in the early 1980s. Originally, scientists developed it based on their research on a natural compound found in bishop’s weed (Ammi visnaga). NasalCrom became available without a prescription in the 1990s.

What Are the Side Effects of Taking NasalCrom for Your Allergies?

Some people complain about sneezing or irritation initially. Others report a bad taste. You are the first to tell us that the sense of smell is heightened. We will be interested to learn if others have a similar experience with this under-appreciated allergy medicine.

Can You Benefit from NasalCrom for Your Allergies?

Q. I suffer from allergies. Steroid sprays ease my symptoms but cause nosebleeds and headaches. I am also concerned about the possibility of cataracts.

I switched to NasalCrom nasal spray. It is awesome. I use it twice a day and it works to control my symptoms without serious side effects.

A. Most people have never heard of NasalCrom for allergy relief. The manufacturer does not advertise it as aggressively as many makers of antihistamines or steroid nasal sprays do.

How Does NasalCrom Work?

The active ingredient, cromolyn, stabilizes the mast cells in the nose that react to pollen and other allergens. You will probably need to apply a spritz in each nostril three to four times a day to prevent allergy symptoms.

How Safe Is It to Use NasalCrom for Your Allergies Long Term?

Some readers, aware of the problems with decongestant nasal sprays, wonder whether long-term use of NasalCrom is safe. Here is one such question.

Q. I have been using NasalCrom for years, usually two times a day in allergy seasons and once per day as a preventative the rest of the time. Is there any harm in taking it every day over a long term?

A. Sadly, scientists rarely do methodical studies of medications to determine their long-term safety. However, cromolyn (the active ingredient in NasalCrom) is considered safe and effective as a long-term maintenance treatment for asthma (Sleep & Breathing, Dec. 2012).

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We got a bit nervous when we spotted a study linking it to amyloid beta in the brain. However, the research shows that rather than increasing the likelihood of Alzheimer disease, it appears to reduce the risk in mice designed to develop this condition (Journal of Biological Chemistry, Jan. 23, 2015). A subsequent study in mice found that cromolyn increases the neuroprotective activity of specialized brain cells called microglia (Scientific Reports, Jan. 18, 2018). There’s a big leap from mice to humans, but the results suggest that NasalCrom might not pose a problem in the long term.

Linda found this was a motivation to switch to NasalCrom:

“I am very happy using Nasalcrom. I have completely stopped antihistamines as I realized I had trouble retrieving words after a week of starting them.”

RWW agrees that long-term use of Nasalcrom for your allergies appears safe:

“I have used Nasal Crom for 30 years and have had no side effects so far.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Netzer NC et al, "The actual role of sodium cromoglycate in the treatment of asthma--a critical review." Sleep & Breathing, Dec. 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s11325-011-0639-1
  • Hori Y et al, "A Food and Drug Administration-approved asthma therapeutic agent impacts amyloid β in the brain in a transgenic model of Alzheimer disease." Journal of Biological Chemistry, Jan. 23, 2015. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M114.586602
  • Zhang C et al, "Cromolyn reduces levels of the Alzheimer's Disease-associated amyloid β-protein by promoting microglial phagocytosis." Scientific Reports, Jan. 18, 2018. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-19641-2
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