Allergic rhinitis or hay fever occurs when your body has an allergic response to indoor or outdoor allergens such as pet dander, dust mites, mold, bee venom, or pollen. When you experience allergies, your immune system creates antibodies against specific allergens it identifies as dangerous, even if they are not. Allergies vary in severity from one person to another. Most of the time, allergies cause mild symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, sinus pressure, nasal congestion, skin rashes, and sneezing. Fortunately, many treatments for allergic rhinitis can help relieve your symptoms.
Avoiding your allergy triggers is the most obvious and useful thing you can do to prevent allergic reactions. An allergist can identify which allergies you have. With this information, you can avoid your allergy triggers. For instance, if you are allergic to grass pollen, don’t go outdoors or open your windows when grass pollen levels are high. If you are allergic to dust mites, vacuum and dust frequently.
Antihistamines are effective in relieving sneezing, runny nose, and itching, but they are less effective at relieving congestion. The medication works by blocking histamine, a chemical released by your immune system that causes allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are available as pills, eye drops, and nasal sprays. Both over-the-counter and prescription versions are available.
Rinsing your nose with distilled, sterile saline can decrease congestion by flushing allergens and mucus out of your nasal passages. Use either a squeeze bottle or a neti pot to rinse out your nasal passages. The saline solution requires sterile, distilled, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered water mixed with a prepared packet of nasal salts or one-half to one teaspoon of plain table salt, kosher salt, or sea salt.
If your allergies are severe or don’t respond to other treatments, your allergist may recommend immunotherapy. Allergen immunotherapy requires injections of purified allergen extracts. The series of injections is typically given over the span of a few years. Sublingual immunotherapy is an alternative that involves placing tablets under the tongue; pollen allergies can sometimes be treated with sublingual immunotherapy.
Shower Allergens Away
When you go outdoors, small particles, including allergens, gather on your skin, hair, clothes, and shoes. Leave your shoes at the door after spending time outdoors. Take a shower to wash all of the allergens off your skin and out of your hair. After you shower, change into clean clothes and put the clothes you wore outside into the hamper.
According to a research article in Phytotherapy Research in 2009, nettle extract helps reduce allergy symptoms by inhibiting the activity of histamine and tryptase, preventing the release of pro-inflammatory mediators responsible for causing allergy symptoms. Consult your doctor before you begin taking nettle extract.
If you are experiencing postnasal drip from your allergies or feel congested, try drinking more water, tea, or juice. Fluids thin the mucus in your nasal passages, which can decrease allergy symptoms. Hot drinks such as tea or broth can soothe a scratchy or irritated throat, as well.
Inhaling steam helps you breathe more easily and decreases nasal congestion. Sit in the bathroom with the door closed and a hot shower running. Alternatively, lean your head over a bowl or sink of hot water, placing a towel over your head to effectively trap the steam as you inhale.
Keep Indoor Air Clean
While you can’t rid the indoor air of allergens completely, there are several things you can do to reduce their concentration in the air. Use a dehumidifier in your home to keep indoor air dry and mold-free. Put a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom. Vacuuming your floors regularly with a vacuum cleaner containing a HEPA filter is also important.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical practice that involves stimulating points on the body are stimulated with thin needles to relieve symptoms of illness. Some people find acupuncture relieves their allergy symptoms. While there isn’t much scientific evidence behind this, there is also little to suggest acupuncture is harmful, so it is worth a try.