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Tips for Dealing with Seasonal Allergies

Allergy season is now here, which means itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose, scratchy throat, and the sniffles are on the way. Allergy symptoms are, without a doubt, the worst. What are your options for dealing with them?

Seasonal allergies can be effectively treated with a variety of over-the-counter drugs. Additionally, allergy injections or the newer sublingual pills for some allergies can help you respond to allergens less dramatically.

However, if you need a little extra help, there are a few natural allergy and sinus cures you can try at home. But first, it’s important to understand what’s generating the allergic reaction in the first place.

What’s the source of your allergies?

“When your immune system reacts to something that is generally innocuous to most people, it is called an allergy." “If you come into contact with a substance that your immune system perceives as a threat, called an allergen, your immune system reacts by releasing a chemical called histamine, as well as other substances," says Lakiea Wright, M.D., a Board Certified Physician in Internal Medicine and Allergy and Immunology.

And that’s what you think of as a problem. You can find yourself sneezing, wiping your nose, and rubbing your bloodshot and tearful eyes all day if your immune system believes it is being threatened by everything from pollen and mold to animals and food.

There are a few non-drug solutions that may help if you want some relief in addition to allergy medications—and according to a 2017 poll of allergists, 81 percent stated they had patients who wanted alternative or natural allergy therapies.

Pollen Allergy Home Remedies

The first step, according to Wright, is to talk to your doctor about getting tested to see if your allergy is caused by pollen and not something else, such as a chemical sensitivity. “Every spring, millions of people turn to over-the-counter medications for allergy relief without knowing their diagnosis," she says. “However, we’ve witnessed firsthand how life-changing it can be when you finally figure out what’s causing your breathing, itching, rashes, or congestion problems."

Pollen must be kept at bay.

If pollen is an issue for you, make an effort to stay away from it. It’s very simple: shower after spending time outside, and if you’ve been out for a long time, shed your outer clothes while you’re outside, put them in a bag, and toss them in the washing machine right away. Then take a shower and wash your hair to get rid of allergens from your body.

If pollen levels are high, try to stay indoors as much as possible. Close windows at home and in the car, and use HEPA filters for furnaces and vacuum cleaners, to name a few examples.

If you’re allergic to pollen, it’s possible that the allergen isn’t the main cause of your sneezing. “It might be because you’re allergic to multiple allergens," she says. “Again, I would recommend speaking with your healthcare physician about getting tested and then implementing trigger avoidance methods," adds Dr. Wright.

Try inhaling steam.

Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist and immunologist at the Allergy & Asthma Network, adds that steam inhalation can assist expand sinuses and airways while also reducing inflammation. It helps open blocked nasal passages and relieves sinus pressure by inhaling steam created by boiling water or running a hot shower. For some alleviation, do this for a few minutes. Of course, the alleviation wears off soon, but you may do this on a regular basis and feel terrific.

Take a probiotic supplement.

Dr. Wright believes that while probiotics aren’t a proven allergy relief, there is some evidence that they may be beneficial. Probiotics boost the amount of healthy bacteria in your stomach, which is thought to aid in the regulation of allergy cells all over the body. She continues, “Having an abundance of beneficial bacteria may help prevent your allergy cells from becoming overly active." Take one or two probiotic capsules each day, such as Culturelle or Align, and eat probiotic-rich foods such as Greek yogurt and miso.

Acupuncture is a good option.

“It’s difficult to discern if you’re getting much of a benefit from it," Dr. Blair explains. There are some studies that suggest it may be beneficial, however it is usually not inexpensive. “It’s one of those instances when you think to yourself, ‘How many sessions do you have to have before you save yourself a Zyrtec?'" she adds. There is also the possibility of a substantial placebo effect—which is still an impact, but one that is likely to be quite costly in this case. She says it’s unlikely to be hazardous, but it might not be all that useful for allergies right now.

Make use of a cold compress.

According to Wright, a cold compress can help reduce environmental allergy symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose or watery, itchy eyes, which are caused by histamine release from allergy cells. “A cold compress will likely lessen your allergic cell activity, reducing histamine and inflammation, and therefore reducing your symptoms," she explains. Simply place a cold washcloth on your face and let it there for a few minutes.

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