Allergy season is officially upon us, and that means here comes itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose, scratchy throat, and the sniffles. We can all agree that allergy symptoms are the worst. The question is, what can you do about them?
Some people turn to shots or medication, but if you’re looking for extra relief, hate getting shots, or simply want to try a new method for relief, there are a few at-home natural remedies for allergies and sinus problems you can try. (You could also try growing a beard or a mustache, as facial hair supposedly acts as a natural barrier to allergens like pollen. No word on how effective it really is, though.)
First off, what causes allergies? “An allergy is when your immune system reacts to something that’s normally harmless to most people. If you come into contact with a substance that your immune system views as a threat, called an allergen, it responds by releasing a chemical called histamine and other substances,” says Dr. Lakiea Wright, M.D., a Board Certified Physician in Internal Medicine and Allergy and Immunology.
This release is what an allergic reaction is, and it can come from anything from pollen and mold to animals and food, she says. That’s why you might find yourself sneezing, blowing your nose, and rubbing your bloodshot and teary eyes all day long.
If you’re about fed up of those seasonal allergies (which you probably are the moment they flare up), try these popular natural home remedies and natural supplements for allergies.
Home Remedies for Pollen Allergies
The first step is to talk with your healthcare provider about getting tested to determine if, in fact, your allergy is caused by pollen, Wright says. If it’s not, a pollen remedy won’t do the trick. “Every spring, millions of people seek out allergy relief through over-the-counter drugs without really knowing their diagnosis,” she says. “But we’ve seen firsthand how life-changing it can be when you finally know what’s causing those problems with breathing, itching, rashes, or congestion.”
Once you have that information, you can employ strategies to avoid allergy triggers: showering after working outside; removing clothes outdoors after working outside and carrying them in a bag to the washing machine; staying inside when pollen counts are high; keeping windows closed at home and in the car; and using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters for furnace and vacuum cleaners, as a few examples.
Taking clothes off that may have come into contact with pollen outside will keep your home a safe place for you to not experience symptoms, and taking a shower will rid your body of such exposure, too. Showering before bed will also help, as it will minimize the amount of time you spend breathing in different allergens.
The same goes for shutting windows to reduce exposure. This helps prevent pollen, dust, and other allergens from sneaking their way into your home. Anything you can do to keep your home clean will bring relief of pollen symptoms when inside, she says.
If you’re allergic to pollen, you might be sneezing like crazy, but that allergen might not be the only reason why. “It may be because you are sensitive to more than one allergen,” she says. “Again, I would advise talking with your healthcare provider about getting tested and then employing strategies for trigger avoidance,” she says.
Determining if you’re allergic and identifying your allergic triggers can help you stay below your “symptom threshold,” which is the point where you start experiencing allergy symptoms, she says.
Here are a few other natural remedies for allergies to try.
Try steam inhalation
“Steam inhalation can help open sinuses and airways and reduce inflammation, but this is short term and temporary relief, allergies will return if you do not address them,” he says. By boiling water and inhaling steam or running a hot shower and inhaling steam, it helps open nasal passages that are congested and relieves sinus pressure. Do this for a few minutes for some relief.
Take an antihistamine
Get rid of sneezing and watery eyes stat. “Antihistamine and steroid nasal sprays as well as antihistamine tablets may help by reducing inflammation,” says Dr. Purvi Parikh, M.D., allergist and immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network. There are also antihistamine eye drops that can help immensely with eye symptoms, he adds.
You can also get a long-acting antihistamine tablet, as it reduces or stops the allergic reaction (like sneezing) from occurring, he says. Antihistamines work best if used regularly in allergy season or even a few weeks before allergy season hits, he adds.
Get an inhaler
This isn’t the case for everyone, but if you have a bad cough or wheezing, or if you also have asthma in addition to allergies, an inhaler will help you out: “If you suffer from coughing or wheezing or asthma from pollen you will need a daily inhaler or an as needed inhaler,” he explains. Carry one around with you when pollen counts or high or if you’re prone to daily triggers.
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Do a saline salt rinse
Salt-water rinse with a neti pot or a homemade version will work. “The saline or salt water reduces inflammation in your sinuses and nose by reducing swelling of those tissues,” he explains. Make sure what you are using is distilled water and you have a clean device or else you become susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections.
Pop a probiotic
There is evidence to suggest that probiotics may help reduce allergy symptoms, she says. Probiotics increase good bacteria in your gut, which is known as the microbiome and regulates your allergy cells throughout the body. “Having an abundance of good bacteria may help prevent your allergy cells from being overly active,” Wright explains. Have one or two probiotic capsules, like Culturelle or Align, a day and feel free to enjoy probiotic-rich foods, like Greek yogurt and miso.
Those needles might help reduce your allergy symptoms. “There is evidence from clinical studies, which suggest weekly acupuncture may help relieve allergy symptoms in individuals with persistent hay fever symptoms,” she says. Worth noting: The results may have been influenced, at least in part, by a strong placebo effect, according to CNN.
Use a cold compress
A cold compress may help relieve environmental allergy symptoms for a runny or stuffy nose or watery, itchy eyes, which come from the release of histamine from allergy cells, she says. “Exposure to a cold compress will likely reduce your allergy cell activity and thus will likely reduce your symptoms by reducing histamine and inflammation,” she explains. Simply apply a cold washcloth to your face and keep on it for a few minutes at a time.
Take natural supplements for allergies
Some herbal supplements have demonstrated efficacy in clinical studies. According to Wright, “butterbark, ginseng, tinospora cordifolia, and a combination of cinnamon bark, Spanish needle, and acerola are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and may be as effective as over the counter antihistamines in reducing allergy symptoms.”
There are a few more that may word, Parikh adds, although there’s no strong clinical data or evidence supporting their efficacy. “Stinging nettle, turmeric all reduce inflammation so can help reduce allergy symptoms, but they are not meant to replace traditional medications especially if you have breathing problems,” he says.
You can also give vitamin D a shot, which has been shown to help reduce inflammation from allergies, he adds.
Use a capsaicin spray
While you may love spicy, hot food, it can also be good for sinus and allergies. “Nasal sprays with capsaicin [help] to desensitize the nerves in your nose and make the [nose] less reactive to allergens and/or irritants,” Wright says. Follow directions on the spray, and keep it in your bag when you’re out and about this spring.
Use a nasal ointment
“Cellulose based and allergen absorbing ointments have demonstrated efficacy in treating nasal symptoms,” she says. These nasal ointments act as a physical barrier to minimize effects of inhaled allergens on nasal membranes, and they’re easy to carry around with you when you need some relief.
But don’t think apple cider vinegar will do the trick
Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no evidence from clinical studies to suggest that apple cider vinegar works to treat allergies, Wright says. While some people believe that mixing one or two tablespoons of ACV in water or some lemon juice and chugging anywhere up to three times a day may help reduce symptoms and break up mucus, but there’s no evidence to really support this as a natural remedy for allergies.
So, take a pass on this one and drink plain, fresh tasting water instead, and look to the other above remedies for better effects!
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