The human body is designed to breath through the nose. Allergies cause the inside of the nose to swell and block the airway. The body then switches to the mouth for its oxygen intake but the mouth makes a terrible nose.
The first thing that happens with nasal blockage from allergies is that the mouth stays open. This is because if you close your mouth, you can't breath. If the mouth constantly stays open then the teeth will stop fitting
For growing children mouth breathing as a result of allergies can be disastrous. The jaws do not grow together and a bad bite (malocclusion) develops. The child's head rotates backward to make it easier to breath through the mouth but this backward rotation causes the eyes to rotate upward. To prevent this the child throws its head forward and becomes ‘chicken necked’ (forward head posture). The mouth breathing can also cause a constant dry mouth, especially in the morning.
The forward head posture causes the collar bones, called the clavicles, to wing upward and forward. The shoulders will roll forward too. Normal collar bones are horizontal. If you, or your child, have winged clavicles it is probably a sign of severe allergies and future neck and back problems.
Eventually the person with allergies learns to keep his or her tongue low so that the tongue doesn't block the air coming through the mouth, much like a panting dog keeps its tongue down and hanging out of the mouth. If the tongue continues to stay low for many years a number of problems result.
A normal tongue sticks to the palate when a person swallows. An abnormal tongue will not stick to the palate but will thrust forward. In severe cases the tongue thrusts forward and downward. The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body so it easily pushes teeth out of position. This abnormal tongue will also cause swallowing and speech problems.
Allergies cause black eyes called allergic shiners because the allergic swelling in the nose prevents the blood from draining well. Some children have continued inner ear infections that are due to the same allergies. There is a small tube that goes to the inner ear from the back of the mouth and nose. This tube allows the inner ear to drain and evens out the air pressure in the ear and the outside world.
The tube to the ear is called the eustachian tube and it's made out of the same type of tissue that makes up the inside of the nose. So the tube can also swell up and close shut when allergies irritate it. This causes the pressure and fluids to build up in the inner ear and makes the person prone to ear infections. All too many doctors will cut through the outside of the ear drum to place a drainage tube rather than treat the allergies that caused the problem.
Untreated allergies can also be the original source of TMJ (temporomandibular joint or the jaw joint) problems because these allergies disturb the normal functioning and growth of the teeth and jaw bones.
More articles on rhinitis
First Published in October 2009
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