Home Remedies for Allergies That Are Actually Worth Trying
These are the best ways to treat allergy symptoms that don't involve medication.
Even in their mild forms, allergy symptoms can be a huge pain. I mean, let's face it: Congestion, itchy eyes, and a runny nose are never a fun time.
Thankfully there are many paths to relief, from medication that eases symptoms to allergy desensitization. (That's when a doctor gives you a dose of what you're allergic to, which makes you less allergic over time—think: allergy shots.) In some cases, home remedies for allergies can also be helpful. Keywords being "in some cases."
Take pollen allergies for example: Although super common (after all pollen is legit everywhere), pollen allergies can cause a range of symptoms from mild sniffling to more severe reactions, says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network. So, home remedies might not be effective for every person with pollen allergies. That's why "you know you may need to try all these things [home remedies] as a first step" but if they don't work and your symptoms are severe enough, you might actually need medication, explains Dr. Parikh.
Home remedies for allergies can help relieve common symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose and itchy and watery eyes. But if you're experiencing symptoms like coughing or wheezing, Dr. Parikh says it's best to skip right to seeking medical help, since it could be sign of serious asthma. (Related: The Most Common Allergy Symptoms to Look Out for, Broken Down By Season)
With that in mind, home remedies for allergies are easy enough to try out and might end up saving you future trips to the medicine aisle or even doctor's office. Don't want to sift through the countless suggestions online to figure out the best home remedy for allergies? Keep scrolling—these are the most worthwhile options, according to Dr. Parikh.
If you're tempted to take a hot shower or make some tea any time that you're dealing with nasal congestion, you're onto something. "Stuffy nose is a chronic symptom of allergies and steam inhalation actually helps a lot," says Dr. Parikh. "It's as simple as boiling a pot of water, putting a towel over your head, and then inhaling the steam from that. The steam helps open up your nasal passages if they're swollen or inflamed from allergies." Just pour boiling water into a bowl and drape a towel over your head (no need to completely close off the bowl with the towel). Try it two to four times per day for five to 10 minutes if proves helpful for you. (Related: When Does Allergy Season *Actually* Start?)
If you've ever noticed a mini teapot-looking-thing in someone's bathroom, it probably had nothing to do with their propensity for boiling hot beverages. Chances are it's a a Netipot (Buy It, $13, walgreens.com), which is a popular tool that, in tandem with saline solution, is used for tackling congestion.
To use 'em, you fill the small container with the included salt packet dissolved in distilled water or boiled then cooled tap water. Then you tilt your head and pour the salt solution in the top nostril so that it flows out the other nostril, then switch sides. Using a saline rinse can flush out dust, pollen, and other debris hanging out in your nasal passage, and can loosen thick mucus, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (Plain water can actually irritate your nasal membranes which is why saltwater is preferable, per the FDA.) Once you've purchased a saline rinse device and used up all the salt packets, you can make your own saline solution. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAI) suggests mixing 3 teaspoons iodine-free salt with 1 teaspoon baking soda, then taking 1 teaspoon of the mixture and adding it to 1 cup of distilled or boiled water.
Prevention measures might save you from needing a remedy in the first place. One of the best ways to avoid symptoms is to figure out ways you can stop exposing yourself to the allergens that cause them. Allergic to your pet? Try to keep them out of your bedroom so that you have a pet-free zone. Have a pollen allergy? Shut the windows. "If you're prone to pollen we really recommend keeping the windows closed especially in the early morning when the pollen counts are the highest," says Dr. Parikh. "And then when you come home, change your clothes and rinse off to get the pollen off of your body." (Related: Can Eating Local Honey Help Treat Seasonal Allergies?)
Another way to prevent symptoms from happening in the first place is to use an air purifier at home. While there are many different types of air purifiers, most are considered high-efficiently particulate air (HEPA) filters, which are known to filter out very small particles. In fact, in order to qualify as a HEPA filter, it must remove at least 99.97 percent of particles that have a size greater-than-or-equal-to 0.3 micrometers from the air. HEPA filters such as the Hamilton Beach TrueAir Allergen Reducer Air Purifier (Buy It, $65, pbteen.com) can trap allergens like mold (yes, the stuff that flourishes in damp environments like bathrooms) and animal dander (which is essentially pet dandruff) that you might otherwise breathe in. Ideally you'll have the air purifier running at all times to filter your air around the clock. (See also: The 7 Best Air Purifiers to Keep Your Home Clean)
Humidity control by way of an air conditioner or dehumidifier can also help prevent allergy symptoms. For example, using a dehumidifier in a damp environment like your bathroom can make it less of a conducive environment to mold and dust mites, according to the AAI. (Dust mites are microscopic organisms that feed off of humans' dead skin cells—and it's actually their poop that people are allergic to, according to the National Institutes of Health or NIH.) Crane EE-1000 Portable Dehumidifier (Buy It, $100, bedbathandbeyond.com) is designed to remove moisture in rooms up to 300 square feet.
Dust Mite Covers
HEPA air purifiers can filter verrrrry tiny particles, but they're still not an end-all, be-all solution, even if you were to spend your entire life indoors. Problem is, air filters don't trap pollen and dust mites, which are small enough to pass through, says Dr. Parikh. It's impossible to get rid of them completely, but you can keep these allergens at bay by making sure to dust and wash your sheets regularly. You can also buy dust covers for your mattress, pillows, and box spring, all environments where dust mites will thrive. "The majority of people are allergic to dust mites and that's the most effective way of keeping the dust mites away from you when you sleep all night," says Dr. Parikh. The covers are made with a tight-weave fabric that the mites aren't able to penetrate, which reduces how many accumulate and cause allergies. With a National Allergy BedCare Mattress Cover, Pillow Cover, and Box Spring Cover Set (Buy It, $131–$201, bedbathandbeyond.com), you can cover all your bases with one purchase.