You wish you were psyched by this warmer Spring weather, but your itchy eyes and stuffy head make it impossible to enjoy. It's so cruel — you might as well buy stock in Kleenex, because your never-ending runny nose keeps it in business. Of course, you can pop pills or use nasal sprays, but the not-so-fun side effects that include drowsiness, foggy head, and dry mouth make you want to throw them out the window (and quickly close it so pollen doesn't get inside!). But you can get relief without relying on a prescription. Here are some natural ways to relieve all your allergy symptoms backed by doctors we spoke to.
For contact-lens wearers, you'll want to remove them and sport your glasses instead as your lenses can trap allergens in your eyes, making the itch and redness even worse. Run a washcloth under cold water, and apply that to your eyes to cool the burning sensation. Washing out your eyes with over-the-counter saline can also offer a world of difference.
Stuffiness and Runny Nose
Becoming as popular as brushing your teeth (and recommended by ear, nose, and throat doctors), nasal irrigation is an effective way to flush allergens from your nose and sinuses to relieve congestion and that constantly dripping nose. Board-certified allergist Amy L. Darter, MD, is a big fan of neti pots. She said, "They provide a mechanical flush of the nasal cavity, which is quite helpful with congestion and drainage.
Neti pots are inexpensive and easily accessible at essentially any pharmacy. You can buy a neti poti ($14) or this nifty bottle ($10). They are a great natural remedy for Spring allergies if used correctly. Any age group can benefit from using a neti pot — she even has toddlers who use them!
Fill it with a warm salt and distilled or purified water solution (tap water isn't recommended). Place it in one nostril, lean your head forward over a sink, and allow the solution to flow up and out the other nostril. It may sound painful, but if you do it correctly, you won't feel a thing. The heat soothes irritated sinuses, and the water lubricates as well as loosens up mucus and washes away allergens. Dr. Darter recommended using it once or twice daily, or on an as-needed basis, to help alleviate symptoms. Purchase saline spray to keep in your purse or gym bag for on-the-go relief.
Severe Congestion and Sinus Pressure
This may be one of the worst allergy symptoms because the pain can be so debilitating; you won't be able to work, drive, or sleep. Decongestants often dry up the mucus, making symptoms even worse, so try a hot compress instead. Run a washcloth under hot water, and apply it directly to your face. Gently run your fingertips along your sinuses (above and below your eyes) to manually loosen up thick mucus. Microwavable rice pillows work well too since they'll stay hotter longer. Put a few drops of eucalyptus oil below your nostrils, which can also help open up nasal passages.
Another remedy is to do some heat-building cardio such as running, jumping rope, or a cardio class (indoor is best to avoid those treacherous allergens). Getting sweaty can help relieve blockages — just be sure to have a pack of tissues handy. Hot yoga is also beneficial because you'll not only get sweaty, but certain poses such as Headstand can also offer relief from persistent sinus pressure. Sipping hot beverages such as tea or broth can also give relief.
Dr. Darter warns that if you think your severe congestion and sinus pressure are due to a sinus infection, since it's bacterial, you'll need to see a doctor to get antibiotics.
Congestion or Coughing at Night
Lying in bed is a trigger for some people, and the inability to breathe coupled with coughing attacks will make it downright impossible to get a good night's sleep. Dr. Darter advised to always keep your bedroom window closed to keep out pollen.
"Use a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom and clean the floors often with a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter," said allergist Stacey Galowitz, DO. She added that the use of a dehumidifier can limit the growth of mildew, mold, and dust mites that can negatively impact allergies. Sleeping with a humidifier on your nightstand will moisten the air, loosening mucus and preventing a dry throat that can cause coughing.
All Allergy Symptoms
Dr. Galowitz said to check your local TV or radio station, newspaper, or the internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels. "Do not plan to be outdoors during peak pollen time, and stay indoors on dry, windy days," she said. "The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air."
If you suffer from every allergy symptom under the pollen-filled sky, and you're going to be outside for an extended period of time, such as gardening, Dr. Darter and Dr. Galowitz said to wear a mask. If you're in the car, she said to keep the air on recirculate so you're not pulling in fresh air from the outside.
As soon as you come inside, Dr. Galowitz said, the first thing you should do is to take off your shoes and the outer layers that may have collected allergens, and throw them in a closed hamper or, better yet, the washing machine. She also recommended taking a shower anytime you come in from being outside to wash pollen out of your hair and off your skin. If you take a hot shower, the heat and steam can help break up congestion, but you can even put your face into the hot spray for quicker, more effective results. This is perfect to do if you suffer from postnasal drip at night.
Eating honey made locally can also reduce allergy symptoms — it contains small amounts of the pollen found in your area, so your body can build up an immunity to it, which can make symptoms less severe.
You may not find relief from one of these remedies alone, but rather a combination can do the trick. If you hate relying on prescription allergy meds, it's definitely worth a shot!