With summer beginning, allergy season is upon us, meaning sneezing, runny noses, and itchy, watery eyes are sure to follow. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, there are over fifty million allergy sufferers in the United States. While many Americans rely on over-the-counter or prescription options to treat their allergies, there are also a variety of home remedies that can help reduce symptoms.
What Are Allergies?
An allergy occurs when a trigger is introduced to the body and causes an immune reaction. Common allergies are caused by substances from pollen to mold, and allergic responses range from small inconveniences to life-threatening reactions.
During an allergic reaction, your body reacts to an allergen by making a protein called IgE. The protein attaches to the allergen, and histamines and other chemicals are released into the bloodstream, causing symptoms like rashes, itching, swelling of the lips and throat, and trouble breathing.
There are a number of over-the-counter and prescription medications to treat allergies, including antihistamines like Claritin and decongestants like pseudoephedrine. While these remedies are popular, they can have side effects, such as dry mouth, dizziness and, in the case of pseudoephedrine, a racing pulse. Another common option to treat allergies is nasal sprays, such as saline or anti-inflammatory sprays. Saline sprays soften mucus and aid in drainage, while anti-inflammatory sprays include steroids which reduce inflammation in the nasal passages to reduce allergy symptoms.
For a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, epinephrine is often required to stop the reaction. In an emergency, using an EpiPen can stop the immediate reaction, but medical treatment is still necessary. For less severe allergic reactions and long-term allergy sufferers, there are a number of home remedies you can try.
One home remedy for allergy relief is altering your diet and adding foods with more antioxidants to your system. This makes the immune system more prepared to fight off allergens.
Diet Changes to Relieve Allergies
|Foods to Avoid||Foods to Add|
|Potatoes||Green leafy vegetables|
|Fried and processed foods||Citrus fruits|
These foods are good additions because they contain Vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants, all of which boost the immune system. For those with allergies to foods like peanuts and gluten, adding foods like almond butter, gluten-free grains and breads and coconut milk will also boost your immune system.
You can also consider adding some of the following foods to your daily diet:
- Apple cider vinegar: You don’t need to drink a lot, just a teaspoon per day will make a difference. Apple cider vinegar reduces mucus production and cleanses the lymphatic system, making it better able to fight allergies. You can even add apple cider vinegar to your favorite recipes.
- Green tea: Green tea is filled with antioxidants, and studies have shown that drinking green tea can even reduce your risk of deadly cancers. There’s really nothing bad about adding a cup of green tea to your daily intake.
- Local raw honey: Local production means the flowers and bee pollen used to make the honey contain many of the allergens your body reacts to. Consumption of raw local honey helps desensitize your system to those allergens.
One of the best ways to reduce allergy symptoms and cure allergies is to get rid of the substances that cause them. Triggers include dust mites, pollen, pet dander and mold. The first step to getting rid of triggers is to keep things clean. Wash bedding and blankets regularly and keep furniture fabrics as clean as possible. If you have a pet, keeping them bathed will also help, as it removes allergens attached to their fur.
You can also use a dehumidifier to make the environment inhospitable to allergens like dust mites. Having fewer carpets helps as well because their fibers often trap particles that cause allergies. Adding an air filtration system to your home is another option, as it removes pollen from the air that can cause allergies. Also be sure to change the filters on your heating and cooling units to ensure they are functioning properly. Finally, take showers often. The steam helps sooth the sinuses and clear nasal passages. Showers also remove pollen from the hair and body so they are unable to enter it.
Use a Neti Pot
A Neti Pot can be a great way to combat seasonal allergies, particularly allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is any allergy that causes nasal symptoms, such as hay fever. A Neti Pot is an irrigation system which flushes the nasal cavity. The device is filled with distilled or boiled water and salt which is then rinsed through the nostrils to flush out irritants and thin out mucus. This leads to less congestion and easier breathing for the user. The salt is an important part of the mixture, as water alone can irritate the nasal cavity. It’s important to use only purified or boiled water, never straight tap water. Tap water often contains bacteria, which can be dangerous if introduced to the sensitive parts of the nasal cavity.
The nose has cilia – microscopic, hair-like structures – which work to expel unwanted particles from the nose, such as dust and mucus. The Neti Pot helps the cilia by pushing these particles out with the salt water solution, making it easier for the cilia to do their job.
Another natural remedy for allergy sufferers are essential oils, which may help fight inflammation and boost the immune system. Some good oils for fighting allergies include eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon and tea tree. Eucalyptus oil opens up the lungs and sinuses, which improves circulation and reduces allergy symptoms. Peppermint oil acts as an expectorant and helps break up congestion caused by allergies. Lemon oil supports drainage from the nasal cavity. Tea tree oil destroys airborne pathogens that can cause allergies, such as mold, bacteria and fungi.
You only need a few drops of these oils to see results, and they can be applied in different ways. Some of the oils, like tea tree and peppermint, work well when put into diffuser systems. Peppermint oil is also effective if put in the sinuses and on the bottom of the feet, or taken internally. Eucalyptus oil can be applied to the chest and temples. Lemon oil is most effective when taken internally; just add a few drops to a glass of water. You can also use lemon oil as a disinfectant for cleaning around the house. Put a few drops in a spray bottle of water for use on couches, sheets, curtains and carpets to remove allergens. Tea tree oil can also be applied to the skin to kill bacteria.
When experiencing nasal congestion, you can fill a large bowl with warm water, add a few drops of peppermint or tea tree oil, place a towel over your head and breathe in the steam for a few minutes.
While allergies can be frustrating, using these home remedies will help reduce the impact they have on your life. However, if you have a severe allergy, you should take precautions to avoid contact with the triggers. If your allergic reaction has ever caused anaphylaxis, talk to your doctor about having an EpiPen on hand and make sure those close to you know what to do in case of an emergency.