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It’s a question millions of people ask each spring: How do I get rid of my allergies?
For some, sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes are a natural response when trees flower and plants bloom. Others—who might have food allergies or be sensitive to certain foods or indoor irritants like dust and pet dander—are eager to banish their allergy symptoms year-round. Here’s a quick look at what seasonal allergies are, and how to get rid of allergy symptoms.
What are seasonal allergies?
Allergies are caused by the immune system overreacting to harmless substances in the world around us. Common allergens include pet dander, dust mites, foods (like peanuts or shellfish), and pollen.
When an allergic person is exposed to an allergen, the body releases histamine and other inflammatory chemicals, irritating the nasal passages, eyes, and throat, which produces allergy symptoms.
Allergy symptoms can vary widely, from mild to severe, and are often confused for the common cold. The most common allergy symptoms include sneezing, coughing, itchy or watery eyes, a runny or stuffy nose, rash, and upset stomach (Akhouri, 2021).
Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is a common reaction to inhaled allergens. Seasonal allergy symptoms can affect you only in certain seasons, or they can be triggered year-round. Pollen counts or ragweed might be allergy triggers in warm weather (what most of us consider allergy season), but dusty, indoor air is just as irritating to some people in the winter. Seasonal allergies are widespread: up to 30% of children and adults in the U.S. have allergic rhinitis (Akhouri, 2021).
7 ways to get rid of allergies
Some children outgrow their allergies, and some adults’ allergies subside over time. However, allergy symptoms can be managed and controlled for most people, but allergies can’t be cured.
Here are seven ways to help you get rid of your itching, sneezing, runny nose, and other allergy symptoms
The easiest way to prevent allergies is to avoid the allergens that bother you. This can be easier said than done. If you’re allergic to cats, you can choose to get a different pet, and if you’re sensitive to shellfish, you can skip over that part of the menu. But some allergens—like pollen and dust—are all around us and can be more difficult to avoid. Avoidance strategies include:
- Staying inside when pollen levels outside are high
- Installing an in-home air filtration system
- Using a dehumidifier in damp places to reduce mold growth
- Covering your pillows and sheets with dust-mite protective coverings
2. Allergy medications
Medications like over-the-counter antihistamines (e.g., Zyrtec, Xyzal, Claritin, or Allegra), corticosteroids, decongestants, nasal sprays, or eye drops can help ease allergy symptoms of itching, runny nose, watery eyes, etc. If your symptoms endure or are severe, your healthcare provider can prescribe prescription medications to reduce inflammation in your nose and sinuses. They may also refer you to an allergist for further testing and treatment.
3. Allergy shots
If your allergy symptoms are chronic and bothersome, your healthcare provider might recommend allergy shots, called immunotherapy. This remedy helps your immune system get used to certain allergens. Allergy shots involve receiving regular injections of tiny amounts of an allergen or a combination of allergens. They can be expensive and take longer to work initially, but they may help you avoid long-term use of medications for allergy symptom relief (Persaud, 2021).
4. Natural remedies
Some people prefer to try to get rid of their allergies naturally. Home remedies are popular alternative treatments, such as eating local honey or using essential oils. Studies have shown some supplements, such as butterbur and vitamin C, to be helpful at easing symptoms (Man, 2009).
5. Air purifiers (HEPA filters)
Using an air purifier and/or vacuum with HEPA filters can help cut down on indoor allergens, which can cause sneezing, a runny nose, coughing, and itching. HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters remove 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and other airborne particles from the air. Vacuums with a HEPA filter will trap dust and allergens, preventing them from being expelled in the exhaust (EPA, 2021).
6. Hypoallergenic cleaning supplies and fabrics
A wide variety of hypoallergenic products are available, eliminating allergens on surfaces without irritating you while cleaning. These include anti-allergen sprays, unscented cleaners and detergents, and dust-trapping cloths (such as microfiber). If you’re sensitive to fragrances, look for products marked “hypo-allergenic,” unscented, or “free and clear.”
7. Allergen-reducing cleaning techniques
Aside from using a vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly, you can use other cleaning techniques to prevent allergens from bothering you around the house. These include:
- Washing bed linens regularly because bedsheets attract dust mites, a major source of indoor allergies
- Dusting and wiping down surfaces regularly
- Reducing the number of soft surfaces in your home (such as carpets, curtains, and throw blankets), which can harbor dust
- Wearing a dust mask when cleaning
- Dusting with a spray, damp cloth, or static duster to reduce the amount of airborne dust
- Eliminating possible sources of mold in your home, such as damp spots or leaking fixtures
- Hiring an exterminator to eliminate any signs of cockroaches and mice
- Drying your clothes and sheets in the dryer (rather than on an outdoor clothesline) so that they don’t get covered in pollen
- Akhouri S, House SA. (2021). Allergic rhinitis.In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538186/
Man, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine for allergic rhinitis. Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery, 17(3), 226–231. doi: 10.1097/MOO.0b013e3283295791. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19262383/
[Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535367/
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2021). Indoor air quality: what is a HEPA filter? Retrieved on May 21, 2021 from https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/what-hepa-filter-1
Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.