- Home remedies for allergies include nasal irrigation and essential oils of lemon and peppermint.
- To avoid allergens, wear a mask outside, stay away from smoke, and keep pollen out of your home.
- Reduce allergy symptoms by getting plenty of vitamins, exercising regularly, or trying acupuncture.
- Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more stories.
A whopping 50 million Americans experience allergies every year, often in the form of hay fever or allergic rhinitis.
Allergies can occur at any time, indoors or outdoors, causing symptoms that can range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening.
But you need not suffer. Here are 13 ways to treat just about any pesky allergy from mold to pet dander — and you don't even need a doctor's visit.
1. Try nasal irrigation
If someone is experiencing nasal allergy symptoms, like congestion or an itchy nose, nasal irrigation with a saline rinse or spray is a great first line of defense, says Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, otolaryngologist (ENT) at Providence Saint John's Health Center.
You can first try buying a saline (saltwater) spray at your local grocer and spraying it in each nostril to loosen up the mucus and relieve congestion.
You can also try using a nasal irrigation device such as a Neti Pot.
Whether you're using a saline spray or a Neti Pot, you will follow the same instructions:
- Over the sink, tilt your head sideways to the left.
- Put the tip of the device or spray bottle into the right nostril, since that is the nostril on top.
- Pour or spray the solution in.
- The solution will drain out through the other nostril.
- Repeat on the other side.
"The irrigations are best because the patient is actually mechanically removing all the irritants from the nose. In many instances that could be quite helpful," says Mehdizadeh.
2. Get an air purifier
Investing in a high-quality air purifier can ease your indoor allergies. Mehdizadeh says air purifiers, particularly HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) purifiers, do a great job at trapping indoor airborne allergens, reducing your likelihood of an allergic response.
Some common indoor allergens that the purifier can help with are dust mites and pet dander.
3. Fend off mold with a dehumidifier
If an indoor mold allergy is more your problem, Mehdizadeh says you need to lower the humidity in your home, since mold thrives and grows in humid areas. In this case, Mehdizadeh recommends using a dehumidifier.
Mehdizadeh says to always use a dehumidifier that is adjustable, so you can control how dry the room gets. You don't want the nasal passages to get too dry, since this can cause discomfort as well.
According to the EPA, humidity should be between 30% and 60% to stunt mold growth, so you can adjust the settings accordingly. Mehdizadeh says you should not go below 30%, since this can be irritating to the nose.
4. Diffuse essential oils
Mehdizadeh says essential oils are potent, so it is important to consult with your doctor before using them as an allergy remedy.
That said, some common essential oils for allergies include:
- Lemon: Lemon essential oil is a common citrus essential oil for allergies. It acts as an antihistamine by reducing inflammation and relieving congestion.
- Peppermint: Since peppermint contains natural menthol, it can help with congestion and coughing. A small 2013 study found that inhaling menthol helped relieve cough better than a placebo. Menthol does this by suppressing the cough reflex.
- Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps combat inflammation in the airways and subsequently soothes nasal and chest congestion.
One way to use these essential oils is to put them in a diffuser.
Alternatively, you can use products like Vick's VapoRub, which contains both menthol and eucalyptus oil to provide symptom relief.
You can also find dissolving shower tablets that contain these essential oils, so when the shower gets steamy, you will inhale the aromas.
5. Wear a mask outside during peak allergy season
Masks can help filter out pollen and reduce allergy symptoms.
A small 2021 study found that people who wore either medical or FFP2 (similar to kn95) masks reduced their exposure to pollen and staved away allergy symptoms.
Another small 2021 study also found that wearing face masks helped allergy sufferers avoid symptoms in both the nose and eyes.
Check your local weather for the pollen count. On days with a high amount of pollen in the air, you might want to wear a mask while outside.
6. Keep allergens out of your home
If you get seasonal allergies from plant pollen, it's important to make sure those outside allergens don't make it inside your home.
Mehdizadeh recommends keeping your windows closed if you're allergic to outdoor irritants.
Here are a few more suggestions to pollen-proof your home:
- Use a HEPA filter to keep the air circulating in your home clear of allergens.
- When you enter your home from outside, change clothes and bathe to ensure that you don't spread allergens within your home.
- Try to bathe your pets regularly to keep them from spreading allergens throughout your home.
7. Make an appointment with an acupuncturist
Researchers aren't sure why it works, but, according to a 2015 meta-analysis, acupuncture was found to improve the symptoms and quality of life of allergy sufferers.
8. Get plenty of vitamin C
Antioxidants like vitamin C can help your body fight inflammation and may also ease allergy symptoms.
In one large 2013 study among children in Korea, those with an increased vitamin C intake had fewer allergy symptoms. A small 2020 study also found that allergy sufferers who took daily vitamin C supplements improved their allergy symptoms.
Sources of vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits, like oranges
- Red and green peppers
- Brussels sprouts
9. Avoid smoke
Exposure to smoke, and in particular tobacco smoke, may exacerbate seasonal allergy symptoms. Even secondhand smoke can cause nasal inflammation and increase allergic reactions.
A large 2015 study found that adult tobacco smokers experienced higher amounts of allergy symptoms than non-smokers. Another large 2015 study focusing on children also found that exposure to cigarette smoke increased allergy symptoms.
Wildfire smoke, even in low amounts, can also pose a risk to allergy sufferers.
10. Take spirulina
Spirulina is a microalgae that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It can be found at health food stores and some groceries and pharmacies.
A small 2020 study found that allergy sufferers who took a spirulina supplement for 12 weeks saw improved allergy symptoms and more relief compared to those who took the antihistamine cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec).
In addition to offering relief from allergy symptoms, spirulina also has a number of other health benefits, including reduced inflammation.
11. Engage in regular exercise
A small 2018 study found that patients who did regular aerobic exercise for eight weeks saw improvements in allergy symptoms including nasal congestion, sneezing, and itching
If aerobic exercise doesn't interest you, yoga may also help bring relief. A small 2019 study had a group of allergy patients do an hour of hatha yoga three times a week for eight weeks. The patients who did yoga regularly saw improved allergy symptoms due to reduced nasal blood flow and nasal inflammation.
Additionally, a small 2019 study found that people with allergies who exercised outdoors during the winter had reduced airway inflammation and saw improved allergy symptoms.
12. Get enough vitamin D
Having adequate vitamin D levels may not only reduce allergy symptoms, but also help immunotherapy treatments work more successfully. A small 2019 study found that immunotherapy treatments worked better for patients who had sufficient levels of Vitamin D.
Another small 2019 study found that supplementing with vitamin D while also taking cetirizine improved allergy symptoms in people who had vitamin D deficiencies.
Scientists say there's a need for more research on how vitamin D levels affect allergies in different people, but getting enough of this important nutrient can also support immune health, bone health, mental health, and more.
The average adult needs 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day.
13. Regularly take local honey
Local honey is thought to help mitigate seasonal allergies by offering some exposure to pollen.
One small 2013 study found that high doses of honey might help reduce allergy symptoms. But other studies, including one small 2002 study, found no evidence that honey helps with allergies.
Ultimately, the research is inconclusive. But there's little harm in trying this method to see if it works for you.
Moreover, honey has been found to ease coughing and other symptoms of upper respiratory infections, and it offers a number of other health benefits.
Herbal remedies with little scientific evidence
Some herbal remedies that are said to help allergy symptoms include:
- Black seed oil: A small 2014 study found that black seed oil, from the black cumin (Nigella sativa) plant, applied topically within the nose improved and treated mild to severe allergy symptoms. This might be due to the anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effects of black seed oil, which has also been found to help treat other respiratory issues, such as sinus infection and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Stinging nettle: Nettle is another plant that has long been touted as an herbal remedy. A small 2017 study found that patients' allergy symptoms significantly decreased after taking stinging nettle tablets four times a day for a month. But the scientists say more research is needed to understand nettle's full benefits.
- Butterbur: The research looking at butterbur's effect on allergy symptoms is not convincing enough for experts to recommend it as a treatment. What's more, Butterbur contains chemicals that may damage the liver and lungs, and that may cause cancer. That's why, if you do try butterbur, it's important to buy products that were processed to remove these chemicals, called pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
OTC medications for allergies
If these natural remedies and lifestyle changes are not cutting it for you, you may want to try over the counter allergy medicines, including antihistamines like Claritin, Xyzal, and Zyrtec. These are what are called second-generation antihistamines, which means they are less likely to cause drowsiness, Mehdizadeh says.
You can also try Benadryl, which is a first-generation antihistamine. Meaning it's more likely to cause drowsiness and is best to take at night.
When to see a doctor
If you're not seeing an improvement in your allergy symptoms, it's important to see your doctor. Your doctor can help you find a solution as well as rule out any other possible causes of your symptoms.
Whether your allergies are triggered by outside sources, like pollen, or inside irritants, like mold, there are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure and ease symptoms.
Avoiding pollen with a face mask and keeping it out of your home by sealing windows and washing up after being outside can help with seasonal allergies.
You can also put air purifiers and dehumidifiers to work inside your home to clear the air of dust mites, mold, and other indoor allergens.
To ease allergy symptoms such as a stuffy nose and sneezing, you can try nasal irrigation, certain essential oils, acupuncture, or supplements like spirulina.
If home remedies don't work, you might need to turn to antihistamines like Claritin, Zyrtec, or Benadryl. If you still don't have any improvement in your allergy symptoms, see a doctor to look into the possible causes of your symptoms and find a treatment plan.