Do you love animals but find that being around them always causes your eyes to itch and nose to run? When other people are enjoying the fresh Spring air, do you find it makes your chest feel tight? Love the taste of peanut butter but get tummy pain when you eat it?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, or these symptoms sound familiar, then you may have an allergy.
According to Dr. Kathryn Edwards, an expert allergist in Princeton, NJ, we don’t yet know why some people have allergies, but there does seem to be a genetic link, meaning it could run in the family.
Allergic reactions happen when your body is hypersensitive to something (like certain types of pollen), considers it an allergen, and overreacts when exposed to it. Your immune system mistakes the allergen for something dangerous to the body and produces antibodies that cause the allergic reaction.
So what are the most common allergy symptoms? Seasonal allergies or mild allergies often can have symptoms such as:
- Runny, stuffy nose and sinuses
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or a slight tightness in the chest
- Itchy skin, rashes, or sometimes hives
These symptoms can be frustrating and can lower the quality of life for people who suffer from them. Currently, there is no cure for allergies, but there are ways of managing and treating the symptoms.
Here is a list of 4 at-home remedy tips from an expert for allergy relief.
1. Drink some tea
The health benefits of herbs, spices, and other plants are well known. For centuries they have been used in treating all sorts of ailments, allergy symptoms included.
Tea has a very long history of being used as a natural remedy, and it is great for dealing with allergy symptoms. According to a study conducted at the University of Shizuoka in Japan, some types of hybrid assam black tea can act as an antihistamine.
Another study published in Allergology International found that drinking certain green tea can significantly reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
Chamomile tea is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is also recommended for reducing allergy symptoms.
2. Rinse out your sinuses
Everyone hates having a blocked, runny nose. The constant sniffles are bad and the painful skin damage from blowing your nose all the time is even worse. Fortunately, there are two simple ways to clean out your sinuses.
One way is by eating spicy food. Capsaicin, the chemical that makes chili peppers spicy, sets off your immune system, and part of this is the production of mucus (giving you a runny nose). Spicy food can also make your eyes water, which is a good way of rinsing out your eyes if they’re itchy.
If you can’t handle the heat, another method is to do a nasal flush with a saline solution.
This is also sometimes called a nasal rinse or saline wash. Using a saline solution (saltwater) to rinse out your nasal passages can help clear away mucus, dust, and allergens.
It is best to start with an over-the-counter saline solution. You can buy them at most pharmacies or drugstores, just make sure that the solution you purchase is for sinus care.
You can also make a sinus rinse yourself, following the directions of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Most nasal rinses come with a dropper or squeeze bottle, but you can also use a syringe or special neti pot.
To use the nasal rinse, lean over a sink with your head tilted to the side so that your nose is parallel to the sink, with one nostril pointed down. Leaving your mouth open to breathe, pour or squeeze some of the nasal rinses into one nostril, letting it drain out the other nostril and into the sink.
Some of the solutions may also run from your nasal passage into your mouth. If this happens, simply spit it out into the sink. If you accidentally swallow some, don’t panic. Check the packaging for advice. If your solution is just saline with no other chemicals, it shouldn’t harm you.
Tilt your head to the other side and repeat the rinse. Once you are finished, blow your nose to remove any leftover saline solution.
Once a day should be enough to significantly alleviate your allergy symptoms. Check with your doctor or allergist if a nasal rinse is a good option for you.
3. Wash your eyes
Allergies can cause your eyes to itch and water, which is very frustrating and uncomfortable. In this case, it can be very hard to resist the urge to rub one’s eyes, but rubbing your eyes will only make it worse.
One reason our eyes itch is that the lacrimal caruncle (the small pink nodule on the inside corner of your eye, near your nose) becomes inflamed. When inflamed, it covers more of your eye and can feel like there is something in your eye that you need to get out.
This makes us want to rub our eyes, but it doesn’t help and can be harmful to our eyes. Instead, try washing them out. You can normally do this with cool tap-water or a saline solution for your eyes.
You can also buy eye drops specifically for red, itchy eyes from a pharmacy or drugstore. These come with a dropper, are easy to use, and are effective at reducing allergy symptoms in your eyes.
4. Clean your living space
It may sound like common sense but depending on your allergies, a little clean-up can make a world of difference.
If you are allergic to pollens or grasses then it’s best to keep your windows closed during the day and instead open them to air out the room at night or use air conditioning. During the day is when most plants release the most pollen, so it’s best to keep the allergens out when they are at their peak.
If you are allergic to mold, however, it’s important to air out the spaces where mold can grow. Mold spores thrive in humid, damp, and wet conditions, so make sure to air out your bathroom after a shower so it can dry properly. If you live in a humid climate, try a dehumidifier.
For people allergic to certain animals, the best measure is to avoid contact with them and not keeping them as pets.
If this isn’t an option for you, regularly vacuuming the floor and furniture, cleaning surfaces, and washing bed linen can help. Minimizing the animal hair in your home will help reduce your allergy symptoms.
If you are allergic to dust then naturally it helps to wipe down surfaces and keep your house well ventilated. Bedding, rugs, and furniture are also home to dust and dust mites, so make sure to clean and air them out regularly.
It is important to note that some allergies can cause more severe reactions than those mentioned above, such as anaphylaxis or asthma.
If you have anaphylaxis or asthma then you should take your immunologist and doctor’s advice, and respond as necessary if you start having a serious allergic response.
Of course, the best way to manage your symptoms is to see a professional. Visit an allergist or immunologist and take an allergy test to find out exactly what is causing your allergic reactions, and the best mode of treatment for you.
For more information or to get an allergy test, book an appointment with Dr. Kathryn Edwards at Penn Medicine Becker ENT & Allergy.
Dr. Kathryn Edwards is board certified Allergist and Immunologist with extensive experience in allergy and immunology care. Dr. Edwards served in the United States Army including at medical facilities in Iraq and served as assistant chief and then chief of Allergy/Immunology at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. Dr. Edwards is also a trained and certified pediatrician and provides allergy and immunology care to people of any age.