When allergies kick into high gear, the great outdoors becomes a source of misery for anyone reacting to pollen and other commonplace allergens. If you suffer from seasonal allergies but don't know exactly what causes them, the first step is to visit a reputable allergist and get tested to determine exactly what your allergic triggers are. Although severe allergies require a doctor's care, these simple home remedies and treatments can often alleviate symptoms of mild allergies that mimic a common cold.
Humidity is an excellent natural decongestant. Even when the outdoor climate is humid and sultry, air-conditioned interiors can be very dry. If the entire family is suffering from clogged nasal passages, using a home (or room) humidifier is a good idea. If you're the only member of the household having a problem, though, the easiest way to humidify your nasal passages is to boil a pot of water and inhale the steam. Take care not to get close enough to scald your face.
Although some allergies are exacerbated by overly dry air, other allergies (particularly mold allergies) have the opposite problem: Too much humidity makes them worse. If mold and mildew cause allergic reactions, using a dehumidifier or an air conditioner can keep that problem in check.
Even when you look and feel perfectly clean, it's possible that pollen grains and other microscopic allergens are clinging to your hair and skin. Taking a shower will wash away allergens and offer the benefits of steam therapy, as well. Showering too frequently can dry out skin, though, so don't forget to apply some hypoallergenic moisturizer after toweling off.
A hot cup of tea not only provides steam to clear out nasal passages; the tea itself can be beneficial. Many allergy sufferers swear by the benefits of peppermint tea as a dual decongestant and expectorant. But when trying "tea therapy," make sure the tea itself won't exacerbate the problem. If you suffer from ragweed allergies, for example, the ingredients in chamomile tea can trigger an allergic reaction.
Almost every drugstore sells saline nasal spray for moisturizing and cleaning out nasal passages and loosening thick mucus buildup. It's cheaper to make saline solution at home, provided you strictly adhere to certain safety measures. Never make a nasal saline solution out of water straight from the tap. The Food and Drug Administration recommends buying bottled water labeled "distilled" or "sterile," or boiling tap water for at least three to five minutes, then cooling it down to lukewarm. A third option suggested by the FDA is to use a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller to remove potentially infectious organisms from the water.
Neti pots work a lot like saline sprays: A gentle rinse of salty water can clear out nasal passages and break through mucus buildup. Neti pots also require the same safety precautions as homemade saline sprays: namely, the water must be completely sterile, because microorganisms that are safe to drink (stomach acids kill them) can still be dangerous to put into nasal passages. According to the FDA, improper use of neti pots might have caused two deaths in Louisiana in 2011, after the pots were filled with tap water containing a rare brain-eating amoeba.
If "outside" allergies such as pollen trouble you even inside with the doors and windows shut, the culprit might be allergens hitching a ride on your clothes. Get into the habit of changing into fresh clothing as soon as you enter the house -- and keep "outdoor" clothes segregated from "indoor" apparel.
High-efficiency particulate air filters can help relieve allergy symptoms by removing pollen grains, animal dander, mold spores, and other potential allergens from the air. Many homes with modern heating and cooling systems already include HEPA filters, but if yours doesn't, a room-size HEPA air cleaner is the next best thing. HEPA filters need replacement every six months to every two years, depending on which brand is used and how "dirty" the local air is.
One popular home allergy remedy might be more harmful than helpful: eating raw local honey. This recommendation is based on the principle of immunotherapy -- that exposure to small amounts of an allergen "teaches" an immune system how to handle it properly. If you're allergic to pollen, the theory goes, eating honey made from local pollen can help beat the allergy.
But there are two problems with this theory. First, while immunotherapy has shown some effectiveness in reducing allergic sensitivities, patients with verifiable success stories were under strictly controlled medical supervision. In other words, immunotherapy isn't something to experiment with at home. Secondly, there's no way of knowing which types of pollen and other potential allergens are in local honey. Honey may be a tasty sugar substitute, but it's unlikely to relieve allergy symptoms.