“Son,” I announced turning to my 12-year-old slumped in his seat in a when-will-we-get-there pose, “I want to stop in this next town and show you the greatest sign ever posted in sports arenas anywhere.” He probably thought I was losing my few remaining marbles when we pulled into the tiny dry gulch town of Ashcroft, BC. Having been impressed by this sign while playing in a hockey tournament many years earlier, I was eager to teach him a cardinal rule of life (hockey, of course, is life). We pulled up to the Drylands Arena only to find the rink locked up tighter than a jar of pickles. But on our tip toes, peering through the glass of the door we could glimpse the sign stretching in all its glory across the width of the rink, “NO SNIVELING.” “See that boy? That is a great motto to live by when playing sports and when playing life.” Glancing sideways at him, I noted a concerned, quizzical look on his wee mug. Finally, looking up at me as though I’d taken one too many pucks to the noodle, he asked. “But Dad, what if they have a cold and just can’t help it?”
After explaining the difference between sniffling and sniveling (though one often leads to the other) I realized that I could treat you, faithful and intelligent reader of this column to a complete synopsis of the causes, concerns and treatment of a drippy snout.
Besides the usual colds, grippes and tax seasons, chronic sniffling is caused by two completely different conditions, namely vasomotor rhinitis and allergies.
I recall an older patient describing how every time he leaned over a bowl of soup his nose would run like a faucet. He was concerned that the constant dripping of watery nasal secretions into his broth was costing him tons of chicks. He had tried snorting decongestants, antihistamines and steroid sprays, all to no avail. But his condition was caused by a short in the wiring of the nasal autonomic nervous system. This is vasomotor rhinitis. Found usually in the older population, this nostril Niagara has nothing to do with allergies. Rather, it is stimulated by changes in temperature, alcohol and exposure to certain odors and chemicals including perfumes and newsprint. In fact, if you have vasomotor rhinitis and are reading this column you could well be dripping onto this page and even onto my photo so STOP IT RIGHT NOW! Go and get some Atrovent nasal spray. It’s the only thing that works.
Another intriguing sign I recall seeing one spring was outside a roadside fruit stand. It read CLOSED FOR THE SEASON, THE REASON IS SNEEZIN’. Allergy sufferers (some 15% of the population) are responsible for over two percent of all visits to doctor’s offices and close to three billion dollars a year in medication! Unlike vasomotor rhinitis, allergic rhinitis involves itchiness of the eyes, nose and roof of the mouth. Usually it is seasonal but in an unlucky few, it can be perennial, depending on what the allergens are. Common persistent allergic symptoms may necessitate using a Dacron pillow, filtering out house dust and chucking the cat. If house dust is the culprit then a humidifier can reduce the amount of dust flying around. If moulds are the cause then a dehumidifier will help. There is often a family predisposition to allergies. Mornings in some homes are a stereophonic symphony of sneezing. “Daddy sneezes bass, momma sniffs tenor, and me and little brother drip right in.” Treatment includes the extremely safe nasal steroid sprays, a membrane stabilizer known as nedocromil and of course antihistamines, best taken at night. Livostin is a highly effective antihistamine that can be used as a nasal spray or eye drops. Those who continue to suffer can go to the increasingly popular desensitization shots. These are usually given weekly for a few months and then tapered to monthly injections. And if you do have to undergo these weekly shots remember… No Sniveling!