Using Nasal Air Filters to Help Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is one of the most common chronic medical conditions, affecting 15%–40% of Americans, which translates into tens of millions of people. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include nasal congestion, nasal itching, runny nose, sneezing, eye itching, throat itching and postnasal drip.

Allergic rhinitis is typically caused by airborne allergens such as pollens, molds, animal dander, and particles left behind by pests such as dust mites and cockroaches. Avoiding allergens can help, but it’s difficult—if not impossible—to avoid some allergens, such as airborne pollen and mold. Treatments for allergic rhinitis include medications and allergen immunotherapy.

Man taking a walk in the fall
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What Is a Nasal Allergy Filter?

Nasal filters help to prevent airborne allergens from reaching the mucous membranes of the nose, which is where the allergic reaction occurs. The nasal filter is designed to fit just inside the nostril and acts the filter allergens from the inhaled air. Obviously, for a nasal filter to be an effective treatment for the prevention of allergic rhinitis symptoms, it would need to be comfortable to wear for the user, and nearly invisible when worn. The device would also need to be effective at preventing symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

Do Nasal Allergy Filters Work?

A recent study, published in 2014, sought to determine the effectiveness of a nasal filter, called Rhinix, at preventing allergy symptoms caused by airborne pollen exposure. Twenty-four adult volunteers with a history of grass allergy were exposed to grass pollen in an environmental exposure unit (EEU) during the winter months—so as to be sure that there was no natural grass pollen exposure that could have affected the results. An EEU is a standardized way of exposing study volunteers to a specific amount of a certain kind of pollen by having fans blow a certain amount of pollen around a room. In this study, the volunteers wore either a real Rhinix device that filters pollen, or a placebo device that had no filter, and were exposed to grass pollen in an EEU for 210 minutes. The volunteers reported various symptoms at baseline (before entering the EEU) and every 30 minutes during pollen exposure, then again three hours after exiting the EEU.

The results of the study were somewhat mixed. Overall, when total symptoms were considered, there was no difference between the volunteers wearing Rhinix compared to the placebo filter device. The Rhinix device was effective at reducing some allergic symptoms compared to placebo, however, including nasal itching, sneezing, and throat irritation. For other allergic symptoms, such as a runny nose and nasal congestion, the Rhinix device showed no benefit over a placebo filter device. Rhinix was completely safe to use, was well tolerated and caused no significant side effects.

An Alternative to Allergy Medicines

A nasal filter device that acts to prevent pollen, and possibly other inhaled airborne allergens such as pet dander and mold, appears to be helpful at reducing or preventing some types of nasal allergy symptoms. While a nasal filter may not completely prevent allergy symptoms from occurring, it is well-tolerated, easily worn and difficult for other people to detect, and causes no significant side effects. For a person who is concerned about taking medicines to treat allergic rhinitis, and isn’t a good candidate for allergen immunotherapy, a nasal allergy filter might be just what the doctor ordered.

1 Source
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  1. Wheatley LM, Togias A. Allergic rhinitis. N Engl J Med. 2015;372(5):456-463. doi:10.1056/NEJMcp1412282

Additional Reading

By Daniel More, MD
Daniel More, MD, is a board-certified allergist and clinical immunologist. He is an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and currently practices at Central Coast Allergy and Asthma in Salinas, California.