It’s that time of year! The return of seasonal allergies. Does the word “pollen” strike fear in your heart? Word is they’re worse than ever this year. That means itchy eyes, runny noses, sneezing and a host of other irritating symptoms. These symptoms can really put a damper on outdoor activities and put you in a grumpy mood even before you step outside.
You need relief! Yes, there are medications you can use to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms but there are also natural steps you can take to treat seasonal allergy symptoms. Here are some you should know about.
A HEPA Filter May Help
A HEPA filter is a high-efficiency air filter that removes 99.97% of the particulate matter of a certain size (0.3 microns or less) from your living environment. This includes animal dander, fungi, dust and pollen that can trigger seasonal allergy symptoms and asthma. You can get a HEPA air filter portable unit for a room in your house, your bedroom is the best choice, or have a whole house filter installed on your HVAC system to filter your entire house. If you choose a portable unit, make sure it’s HEPA certified. There are ones out there that aren’t HEPA certified and don’t offer the same level of protection. Research shows they’re effective for relieving allergy and asthma symptoms.
Irrigating your nasal passages with a saline solution three times a day can help seasonal allergy symptoms but there are some disadvantages to frequent irrigation. For one, your mucous is a source of natural anti-bacterial and anti-viral compounds that protect you against infection. Irrigating too often can wash them away or dilute them.
Never use a solution to irrigate your nasal passages that isn’t sterile. No tap water! A rare and usually fatal form of protozoal infection that makes its way from your nasal passages to your brain has been linked with using tap water in Neti pots. Only use sterile or distilled water or sterile saline irrigation solutions in irrigation devices or anything else you put in your nose.
Use a Steam Inhaler
If you have a lot of sinus pressure with your seasonal allergies, it may be worth investing in a steam inhaler. To use this apparatus, you place your face in front of a mask that directs warm steam into your nasal passages. If you wish, you can add essential oils like oil of eucalyptus to the steamer.
If you don’t want to invest in a steam, use this do-it-yourself method. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil and drape a towel over your head to make a tent to direct the steam towards your nasal passages. Inhale the steam for five minutes. Ahh! Instant relief!
Butterbur is an herb from a shrub that grows in parts of Europe. It’s used medicinally in European countries as a natural treatment for migraine headaches and allergy symptoms. How does this natural allergy treatment work? Butterbur has anti-inflammatory properties similar to an antihistamine without side effects like sedation.
A number of European studies support its benefits for treating hay fever and seasonal allergies, although it hasn’t been extensively researched in this country. It’s available as an extract in some health food and natural food stores. If you use it, make sure it’s labeled as “PA-free,” meaning any toxic substances have been removed – and talk to your doctor first.
Become a Clean Freak
Think of all the clothing in your closet collecting dust. When you walk outside, pollen sticks to your shoes and clothing. When you come in from outdoors, slip into clean clothing and leave the clothing you just wore in the laundry room to avoid spreading pollen and other allergens all over the house.
Wash clothing you’ve worn outdoors in hot water to destroy dust mites. Then dry them in a hot dryer. If your clothing won’t withstand hot water, you can buy laundry detergents that eliminate dust mites at a lower temperature like Hoover Anti-Allergen detergent.
Wear a Mask and Sunglasses When You Work Outside When the Pollen Count is High
When the pollen count climbs, it’s best to stay inside with the air conditioner and HEPA air filter on. If you have to venture outdoors to do some outside work, wear a mask and sunglasses to protect yourself from the pollen as much as possible.
Close the Windows
During allergy season, keep the windows shut and the air conditioner on in the house and when you’re driving around to reduce the amount of pollen you’re exposed to. This small step can make a big difference in your allergy symptoms.
Other Treatments That May or May Not Work
Animal studies show a bioflavonoid called quercetin found in some foods like black tea, red wine, onions, apples, citrus fruit and berries relieves allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll get enough through diet alone to make a difference, and there’s not enough evidence that it works in humans to recommend a supplement.
The Bottom Line?
Taking these steps may reduce seasonal allergy symptoms without the need for drugs. If not, there are medications that can help you get some relief. Talk to your doctor about the option that’s best for you.
J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2006 Jul-Dec;20(3-4):47-52.
Pystother Res. 2005;19(6):530-7.
Medscape.com. “Allergic Rhinitis”
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database