Home Remedies for Allergies — Natural Allergy Relief


When you have bad allergies, it can feel like there’s no way to escape them, and allergies are not just a problem for a few weeks in the spring. Fall can bring sniffle-inducing pollen and weeds too. But sometimes, just a few small changes to your routine can bring symptom relief without any medication.

“I think many people feel like making lifestyle changes can be really hard so I love to approach these in a step-wise fashion with patients—no detoxes or cleanses necessary,” says Kara Wada, M.D., allergist/immunologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Before you try any allergy relief, solutions, though, it’s important to get tested. If you don’t know what you’re really allergic to, there’s really no way to guarantee anything will give you relief. “With allergies, your body is having an exaggerated response to something that should be harmless so it’s really important to know your trigger,” says Lakiea Wright, M.D., M.P.H., board-certified allergist and associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Different types of skin and blood testing are available, depending on your symptoms and medical history. “Getting allergy testing helps you recognize your triggers and learn what specific techniques may be most useful and worthy of your time, energy and money,” adds Dr. Wada.

Allergy home remedies that work

Here’s what to do once you’re armed with info:

Avoid pollen

It’s impossible to control the weather (and you can’t stay inside forever!) so it can be especially tricky dealing with a pollen allergy. Dr. Wright suggests limiting your outdoor activity during times of the day when pollen counts tend to be high (typically dawn and dusk) and using a smartphone app to track levels. On top of that, a face mask might help. In fact, 30% of people in a recent study said their seasonal allergies improved when they wore a surgical face mask outside, and that number improved to 40% when they wore an N95 mask. When you go indoors, Dr. Wright recommends taking a shower and changing your clothes to remove any pollen that might be stuck to you—and keeping windows closed so pollen doesn’t come inside.

Try acupuncture

“The literature does suggest—based on a small number of studies—that acupuncture may have a modest benefit for some patients with allergic rhinitis or hay fever symptoms,” says Dr. Wright. “There needs to be additional larger studies, but the thought is that acupuncture can help increase blood flow and if you have nasal congestion from your allergen exposures, then promoting blood flow in that area could help to improve your symptoms.” Essentially, it’s a practice that can’t hurt and has potential to help, so it’s worth a shot if you’re struggling.

Rinse nasal passages

“Sinus saline rinses such can increase mucous clearance by about 30% which can be very helpful at flushing out allergens,” says Dr. Wada. A neti pot can be a great way to get the job done, and rinsing may also help reduce inflammation and swelling. “I fully support nasal irrigation, but one caveat is if you’re using medications like nasal steroids, you want to make sure you rinse before you put in the medication because you don’t want to rinse the medication away,” notes Dr. Wright.

Cool down your eyes

Similar to nasal irrigation, artificial tears can help wash allergens out of watery, itchy eyes, but Dr. Wright recommends taking things a step further and keeping the bottle in your fridge. “That way it’s a little cool when you put it in your eyes, which helps to calm down those allergy cells that are firing off,” she explains. If you’d rather not use eye drops, she says a cold compress can also help.

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Eat a healthful diet

If you haven’t already, now might be time to switch to a plant-forward, anti-inflammatory eating style. That’s because research shows your immune system needs a variety of micronutrients to perform at its best and things like excess sugar and processed foods can increase inflammation and throw things off kilter. “Eating a balanced diet and eating the whole rainbow of foods, we know is good for your immune system in general,” says Dr. Wright. “We just don’t have the evidence specifically for allergies.”

Make adjustments at home

If indoor allergies are getting you down, a few tweaks to your home environment can make a huge difference. To start, Dr. Wright recommends placing HEPA filters throughout your house. “They help filter out some of the allergens like dust mites and pet dander from the air,” she says. Along those same lines, dehumidifiers can help remove moisture from the air in damp areas like basements and prevent the growth of allergens like mold. You’ll probably have to do some extra cleaning, too. “If you have carpets or rugs, you want to vacuum weekly,” advises Dr. Wright. “You also want to wash your bedding weekly in hot water and dry it in high heat because that will kill off dust mites. Another thing my patients don’t realize is the mattress can be a harbor for those dust mites so you really want to change out that mattress about every seven years.” She says encasing your mattress and pillows in allergen-proof covers can also help. Lastly, if you’re allergic to your pet, Dr. Wright recommends bathing them weekly to decrease their dander.

Drink water

Without enough water, the human body struggles to function, and some animal studies suggest that dehydration can lead to an increase in histamines in the body—which there’s already an excess of during an allergic reaction. “Staying hydrated is good in general for your health, but when it comes to allergies, if you are taking antihistamines, those can also dry you out,” says Dr. Wright. “So you definitely want to stay on top of your water intake and make sure you stay hydrated.”

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Manage stress

For some people, yoga is their go-to stress-reliever. For others, it’s reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, or talking to a therapist. Find what works for you and, as hard as it may be with everything going on, do your best to carve out time for it. Studies show that stress can exacerbate allergic reactions so the more you can minimize what’s going on in your body, the better you may be.

Natural solutions that don’t work

Not every home remedy you hear about is a home run. These often-touted natural solutions don’t have the research to back up their use.

  • Honey: “Local honey may be delicious but does not contain enough of the correct types of pollen to have any effect close to that of immunotherapy,” says Dr. Wada.
  • Essential oils: “There’s no evidence to suggest that essential oils can be beneficial to improving your allergies,” says Dr. Wright. In fact, she says the strong scents can actually worsen allergy symptoms in people whose nasal passages are overreactive.
  • Supplements: “I don’t routinely recommend herbal or homeopathic supplements to treat allergies,” says Dr. Wada. “The data doesn’t support their use and since they are unregulated it is impossible to know if what is listed on the bottle is actually what is in the bottle.”

    When to see an allergist

    If home remedies don’t seem to alleviate your allergy symptoms, there’s no reason to continue suffering. Schedule an appointment with an allergist to discuss medical solutions. “I think it is really helpful to find an allergist that you can partner within your care and letting him/her know your goals of care,” says Dr. Wada. “Education and information can be incredibly empowering and meeting with an allergy expert is going to help you understand all the options available to treat your symptoms.” For instance, immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots, drops, or tablets that contain regimented doses of specific allergens could provide long-lasting relief. “Over time, the body learns to ignore these triggers rather than fight them,” explains Dr. Wada.

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