Dear Dr. K: I read a report that said sunlight can help nasal allergies. Is that true?
Yes, it is true. It has been known for years that sunlight can exert beneficial immune effects.
The report you read was probably one about recent research using intra-nasal phototherapy. The most recently published article in this regard is from the journal, “Therapeutic Advances in Respiratory Diseases,” and was a well-done, placebo-controlled, randomized study.
Before discussing that research, let’s look at phototherapy in general. This modality has been used for years in treating a variety of inflammatory skin conditions. (Keep in mind that nasal allergy is also an inflammatory condition.) The most common skin conditions that respond to phototherapy (UV-A and UV-B) are acne, eczema and psoriasis. Phototherapy exerts a number of immune modulating effects, the primary one being to reduce molecules of inflammation such as prostaglandins.
The study done on nasal allergy used a phototherapy that consisted of 25 percent UV-A, 5 percent UV-B and 70 percent visible light. The treatment time gradually increased from two minutes to three minutes.
Compared to the placebo group there was marked improvement in nasal obstruction, itching, mucous production and sneezing. The only side effect of the treatment was nasal dryness in a few patients.
If these findings hold up to further clinical trials, phototherapy might become a viable option for some allergic patients such as those intolerant of medicines or those unable to take allergy shots.