How to Treat Allergy Symptoms at Home

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may have heard the old tale that eating honey can help reduce or even cure unpleasant symptoms. The idea is that the pollen in honey can help desensitize the body to outside pollen.

Seasonal allergies (also called seasonal allergic rhinitis or hay fever) occur when pollen in the air causes the body to release histamines, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. This triggers symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and itching in the mouth, throat, eyes, or ears.

According to AAAAI, there are three pollen seasons that occur at different parts of the year depending on where you live.

Does honey help with seasonal pollen allergies?

No, honey does not help with seasonal allergies or treat allergic rhinitis, unfortunately, Dr. Dave Stukus, professor of clinical pediatrics in the Nationwide Children’s Division of Allergy and Immunology, told TODAY.com. Hospital.

There is no evidence showing that honey relieves seasonal allergy symptoms when given to allergy sufferers, he says. Also, not all pollens are the same.

“Honey is made by bees, which collect a very different type of pollen from that which causes allergy symptoms,” Stukus explains. The pollen that bees collect – which ends up in nectar that turns into honey – comes from flowers, he adds, and this pollen is very large and does not spread through the air.

The pollen that causes seasonal allergy symptoms comes from trees, grasses, weeds and ragweed, adds Stukus, which is smaller and spreads easily through the air.

“It’s a common misconception that honey helps you desensitize or tolerate airborne allergens, especially pollen,” Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist at NYU Langone Health, told NYU Langone Health. TODAY.com.

Stukus says the honey myth may be rooted in immunotherapy, a long-term treatment for allergic rhinitis. “We’ve been doing allergy shots for over 100 years, where we expose people to very small amounts of pollen over time, and it desensitizes them,” Stukus says, but eating honey won’t do much. , or nothing at all.

Does local honey help with pollen allergy?

Does it make a difference if the honey is local, raw, organic or unfiltered? No, it’s just marketing, says Stukus. The idea that local honey can help with allergies or act as an antihistamine is a myth.

“Even if the honey comes from the exact neighborhood where someone lives in and around the same plants causing their allergy symptoms, it just doesn’t matter,” he adds.

So no, honey will not relieve or cure your pollen allergy symptoms. But it can soothe and cover up a sore throat, says Parikh.

How to relieve allergy symptoms at home

“There are many different treatment options and avoidance measures that can be very effective in making people feel better,” Stukus says.

Planning around pollen counts during allergy season can also help – you can find this information from the National Office of Allergy, the Allergy and Asthma Network, and weather apps.

If you have allergic rhinitis symptoms but aren’t sure what you’re allergic to or what seasons to worry about, experts recommend seeing an allergist.

close windows

“We recommend keeping windows closed at all times inside the home and car to help limit outdoor pollen exposure indoors,” says Stukus.

Air filters

If it’s hot, turn on the air conditioning — this can be very effective in helping filter out particles like pollen and keeping people cool when windows are closed, Stukus says. He recommends having HEPA air filters in all home air conditioning units.

Change and shower before bed

“We want people to go out and be active, but when you come in, change clothes when you’re done for the day,” says Stukus. Otherwise, you’ll be stalking the pollen in your home and bed, where it can continue to irritate you all night long, notes Parikh.

People with seasonal allergies should also shower or bathe before bed to remove pollen from their hair and skin, experts say.

If you have a pet that goes outdoors, Stukus recommends bathing them regularly or wiping their coat to help reduce pollen in the home.

Clean your bedding

It’s important to keep your bedding (sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers, and other blankets) as clean and pollen-free as possible.

Parikh recommends washing your sheets weekly in hot water to help remove allergens and buying dust mite covers for your mattress. “Exposure to multiple allergens can only make things worse,” says Parikh.

Wear an N95 mask outside

Stukus says an N95 mask can also help block pollen particles, so consider wearing one outside, especially when pollen counts are high or during any activity where you’ll be exposed to a lot of pollen. like mowing the lawn.

Use a saline rinse

A saline solution (or salt water) can be sprayed inside the nostrils to help clear pollen or to soothe irritated mucous membranes in the nasal and sinus passages.

“In people with seasonal allergies, over time the lining of the nose, sinuses, and even the lungs can become inflamed and irritated,” says Stukus.

You can buy nasal saline sprays at the drug store or make your own at home and use a device like a bulb syringe, according to the AAAAI. Neti pots are a more powerful way to get saline solution into the sinus cavities and clear mucus, says Stukus.

To drink a lot of water

“Don’t underestimate the power of staying hydrated,” says Stukus, adding that it can help keep irritated mucous membranes moist. Drinking water is also a good idea for overall health.

According to most experts, that means drinking about eight glasses of water a day, TODAY.com previously reported.

Regular exercise

“Exercise can be very helpful. It just helps people feel better, and there’s evidence that focusing on exercise and stress reduction can lessen seasonal allergy symptoms,” says Stuku. You may want to exercise indoors during allergy season or when pollen counts are high.

Try steam and humidifiers

“Lots of steam can help, and sometimes humidifiers can provide benefits as well, especially in the bedroom,” says Stukus.

Steam can help ease congestion, Parikh says, and keep nasal passages moist. You can inhale the steam directly while taking a hot shower or standing over a pot of boiling water, she adds.

“I recommend caution with humidifiers because they can build up mold over time,” Stukus says.

Use nasal steroid sprays

“The most effective medication across the board for all symptoms are nasal steroid sprays,” says Stukus. These are available over the counter, sold under brand names like Flonase or Nasacort.

These have very few side effects, Parikh says, and deliver the medicine directly to the source.

“They need to be used regularly on a daily basis to provide the most benefit, so you can’t really use them on an as-needed basis,” says Stukus. Ideally, people should start using these two weeks before the start of pollen season and continue for the duration, he adds.

There are other effective nasal sprays that contain steroids and antihistamines, such as Astelin, says Parikh. Both experts recommend avoiding oxymetazoline nasal spray, which can be habit-forming.

Try antihistamines

Experts recommend 24-hour or “second-generation” antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec) or fexofenadine (Allegra), which usually don’t cause drowsiness. These work best for relieving itching and sneezing, Stukus says.

“We recommend people avoid (diphenhydramine) and first-generation antihistamines (for seasonal allergies) because they’re sedating, don’t last very long, and have terrible side effects,” says Stukus.

Try Allergy Drops

If pollen season is tough on your eyes, there are over-the-counter eye drops that can provide relief. These contain ingredients such as antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers, which relieve redness, itching and swelling and are sold under brands such as Pataday, Zaditor or Alaway.

“We generally recommend people avoid vasoconstrictors because they don’t treat symptoms. … You can also get a rebound effect with prolonged use,” says Stukus. Always speak to a pharmacist if you have any questions about the options available at the pharmacy.

“Eye allergy symptoms can be very unpleasant and difficult to treat,” says Stukus. Therefore, if your eye problems are severe or not improving with over-the-counter medications, it may be time to see an allergist.

Natural Allergy Remedies That Don’t Work

There are many other natural or home remedies for seasonal allergies that people swear by, even though there isn’t enough scientific data to support these claims.

Vitamins and supplements

“There’s not really good evidence to show that supplements (and vitamins)…whether it’s elderberry or zinc…will provide much relief,” Stukus says. Similarly, studies have not shown that eating specific foods helps relieve seasonal allergy symptoms, he adds.

Essential oils

“Essential oils have no demonstrated benefit in treating seasonal allergy symptoms, and for some people they may actually make their symptoms worse,” Stukus says.

Acupuncture

Referring to the latest clinical guidelines for allergic rhinitis published in 2020, Stukus says there is no strong evidence to support the use of acupuncture or herbal medicines to treat seasonal allergy symptoms. . But if people feel like it really helps, there’s no harm in continuing to do it.

“If you have respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, do not treat with home remedies or over-the-counter medications — see a doctor,” says Parikh. These are signs of asthma, she says, that can be triggered or worsened by seasonal allergies during pollen season.

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