Each seasonal change brings with it different types of allergy triggers and irritants that affect millions of people.
Spring gives rise to airborne pollens that drive a multitude of allergic people crazy, while summer smog accelerates another round of allergy flare-ups. Similarly, fall’s falling leaves bring along dust, and the cold winter season brings allergies that cause a scratchy throat, stuffy nose, and/or chest congestion.
Aside from the deviations in weather, several other substances can act as potential agents that can stimulate an allergic reaction in, almost, any individual.
Allergies are a common cause of illness in the United States. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, an estimated 50 million Americans suffer from nasal allergies. The same foundation reports that allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the USA.
Bearing in mind the consequences of an allergic reaction, it is of paramount importance to have an understanding of the various aspects of it.
What are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Allergies?
Not everyone responds the same way to each allergen. However, there are similar sets of signs and symptoms most people experience when exposed to specific allergens, which include:
- Dry, cracked, and red skin accompanied by itching and rashes
- Cough, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and wheezing (asthma triggered by allergies)
- Swelling in the tongue, lips, eyes, and/or face
- Red raised itchy rashes (hives)
- Blocked or runny nose accompanied by itching and sneezing (hay fever)
- Red watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Feeling of sickness and stomach cramps
Treatment for and Prevention of Allergies
Once you are aware of your triggers, you can aim at following a treatment method that includes avoiding the allergen and taking medications and shots.
- Limit exposure to the allergen by taking steps to avoid being in its vicinity. A person allergic to pollen must refrain from going outdoors when the pollen levels are high.
- Undergo allergen immunotherapy that aims to desensitize the body against allergens by altering the immune system’s response to them. It is a time-taking treatment method that involves regular administration of gradually increasing doses of allergens by drops, sprays, or injections or in any other forms.
- Take prescribed medications that can treat allergies including:
- Medicated eye drops for eye allergies
- Antihistamines to block the release of histamine that is responsible for an allergic reaction
- Intranasal corticosteroid sprays that can effectively treat allergic rhinitis
- Skin creams containing hydrocortisone or steroids to treat skin allergies
- Adrenaline used in severe life-threatening conditions as an emergency treatment
Simple Ways to Manage Allergies
There is no definitive way to cure you of an allergy completely, but you can take control of the situation with lifestyle changes and certain home remedies.
Outlined below are the most widely used home remedies for allergies:
1. Irrigate Your Nose with a Saline Solution
The most common allergies affect the upper respiratory system. You can alleviate this condition to a great extent if you wash away allergens and irritants by irrigating your nose with a saline solution.
A study published in the World Mycotoxin Journal offers strong evidence that saline nasal irrigation is an effective adjunctive treatment for symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis.
Another study published in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy in 2012 reports that saline nasal irrigation using an isotonic solution can be recommended as a complementary therapy in allergic rhinitis.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of non-iodized salt and a pinch of baking soda in 2 cups of distilled or previously boiled water. Allow the solution to cool.
- Bend over a sink and use a dropper to put about 10 drops of this homemade solution into one nostril. Allow it to drain back out through the other nostril or through the mouth.
- Repeat the process with the other nostril.
- Do this once or twice a day for as long as the symptoms last.
Instead of making your own saline solution, you can buy it and follow steps 2 through 4.
2. Inhale Steam
Steam can offer some relief from various symptoms of allergies such as a stuffy nose and nasal congestion. It will refresh and soothe irritated sinuses as well as clean the nasal passages of excess mucus and any irritants.
- Boil several cups of water until it produces a good amount of steam.
- Pour the boiling water into a big bowl. Add 3-4 drops of eucalyptus essential oil, peppermint essential oil, rosemary essential oil, or tea tree essential oil.
- Drape a towel over your head and lean carefully over the bowl. Inhale the steam deeply for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Repeat the steam inhalation one to three times a day until you recover completely.
3. Take a Hot Shower
Spending long hours’ outdoors can expose your body to pollen, dust particles, and other irritants that can trigger allergies. Enjoying a hot shower is another very useful remedy for allergies.
To get rid of the source of your allergy, take a hot shower and wash your hair thoroughly after you have been outside.
Also, taking a hot shower helps open up your sinuses, making breathing a little easier. The warm water even helps you relax and enjoy a sound sleep.
These are some drug-free ways to treat symptoms of allergies when they arise. However, if the symptoms become severe, consult a doctor.
4. Consider Quercetin
Quercetin is a phytochemical naturally found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, green tea, and citrus fruits. It is a natural antioxidant that eases inflammation and blocks the release of histamine from mast cells, thus keeping a check on the symptoms of allergy.
As it is a remedy that starts its effect after long-term consumption, it is advised to start taking quercetin 4-6 weeks before the onset of the allergy season.
5. Drink Nettle Leaf Tea
Nettle leaf is a natural antihistamine and can help stabilize histamine levels in your body during seasonal and chronic allergies.
A study published in Phytotherapy Research reports that the bioactive compounds in nettle extract contribute to the inhibition of pro-inflammatory pathways related to allergic rhinitis.
- Put 1 tablespoon of dried nettle leaf in a cup. Pour boiling water over the herb and let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain the liquid, allow it to cool, and then add a little honey to it. Drink this tea two or three times per day until your symptoms go away.
- Alternatively, you can take nettle capsules. You must consult a doctor for directions, including the appropriate dosage and how long to take it.
6. Consider Acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient practice that may help bring relief to allergies by working on pressure points.
Obviously, this is not a “home” remedy, but a potential alternative if other remedies fail.
Although the process is not very clear, there are some studies that support its use to clear nasal allergies. Further studies and trials are required to cement its effectiveness as a treatment for allergies.
Consult a doctor before you intend to try acupuncture.
7. Soak Yourself in an Oatmeal Bath
Soaking the skin in an oatmeal bath can provide quick relief from allergy-related skin rashes.
Being a humectant, it also helps moisturize the skin, and it contains inflammation-quelling compounds.
- Pour 1 cup of colloidal oatmeal into your bathtub filled with warm water.
- Add a few drops of lavender essential oil.
- Soak in it for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Rinse your body with lukewarm water, pat your skin dry, and generously apply a good moisturizer.
- Enjoy this relaxing bath a few times a week.
8. Apply Cold Compresses
An allergic reaction on the skin appears when you come in contact with a substance that the skin mistakes for a threat. It usually causes red, itchy rashes, and the skin can sometimes feel warm to the touch.
The cold temperature will help shrink your blood vessels and prevent the histamine from coming out of the blood vessels. This, in turn, reduces the severity of the allergic reaction.
- Soak a soft washcloth in ice-cold water and gently apply the compress on your rash for 15 to 30 minutes. You can repeat this process many times a day for relief.
- You can also take a cool water bath once or twice a day to reduce inflammation.
9. Try Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an age-old remedy for allergies. Due to its antibiotic and antihistamine properties, apple cider vinegar is very effective in treating allergic reactions.
- Add 1 tablespoon of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to 1 glass of water. Mix in 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon of raw honey.
- Drink this three times a day until you get relief from acute allergy symptoms.
1. Eat Foods Rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C works as a natural antihistamine, making this water-soluble vitamin very effective in treating allergy symptoms. It also boosts your immune system. This, in turn, helps prevent infection and shorten the duration of illness.
A study published in the Journal of International Medical Research in 2018 supports the administration of high doses of vitamin C intravenously as a treatment to reduce the symptoms of allergy.
Another study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine reports that vitamin C works as an antihistamine by destroying the molecular structure of the imidole ring of the histamine molecule.
- Eat foods high in vitamin C such as lemons, oranges, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, bell peppers, potatoes, strawberries, sprouts, cabbage, blueberries, raspberries, and tomatoes.
- You can also take a vitamin C supplement daily, but it is always best to consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
2. Include Probiotic-Rich Foods
Allergy problems manifested through your skin or nasal passages, commonly begin in the gut. So, when there is an imbalance or lack of “good” bacteria in the gut, allergic reactions can result.
To keep your gut healthy, include probiotics in your diet. This will help prevent and reduce allergies and also support your immune system for a fast recovery.
A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that a probiotic combination of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria helps maintain digestive health and parts of the immune system.
Researchers suspect that probiotics might work by increasing the body’s percentage of regulatory T-cells, which in turn might increase tolerance to hay fever symptoms.
- Eat probiotic foods, such as Greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, raw probiotic cheese, miso, and kombucha.
- You can also take a high-quality probiotic supplement. Consult your doctor to help you choose the right supplement.
3. Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger is another effective remedy that you should try. It can help get rid of allergy-related symptoms including nasal congestion, a runny nose, a cough, and a headache.
A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found ginger to be effective in the prevention or alleviation of allergic rhinitis symptoms.
It works as a natural antihistamine and has antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties.
- Add 1 tablespoon of grated ginger, along with a few cloves and a small piece of cinnamon, to 1 cup of water. Bring the water to boil and let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain the liquid and add a little raw honey and lemon juice to it. Drink this herbal tea two to three times daily during the allergy season.
- Also, chew small pieces of fresh ginger several times a day and include ginger in your cooking.
4. Consume Local Honey
Many people swear that eating local honey really works to get rid of allergy symptoms. Local honey produced by bees in your region contains bee pollen, which helps ward off allergies.
A 2011 study published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology reports that patients who preseasonally used birch pollen honey had significantly better control of their symptoms than those on conventional medication only and they had marginally better control compared to those on regular honey.
The results should be regarded as preliminary, but they indicate that birch pollen honey could serve as a complementary therapy for birch pollen allergy.
A 2013 study published in the Annals of Saudi Medicine reports that honey ingestion at a high dose improves the overall and individual symptoms of allergic rhinitis, and it could serve as a complementary therapy for allergic rhinitis.
- Consume 1 teaspoon or more of raw, unprocessed local honey three to four times a day to help relieve symptoms during the allergy season.
- For best results, eat local honey about 1 month before the onset of allergy season.
5. Include Garlic Cloves in Your Cooking Practices
Garlic is a natural antibiotic that can effectively ward off allergies. The antiviral and immune-boosting properties of garlic can literally keep the doctor away during the allergy season.
A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology found that fresh, raw garlic was effective at suppressing the release of a substance called beta-hexosaminidase. The inhibition of this substance is an effective measure against allergic reactions.
- Eat 2-3 raw garlic cloves daily for a week or two to combat various allergy symptoms.
- If you cannot bear the taste and strong smell of garlic, you can try garlic supplements but only after consulting your doctor.
6. Whip Up a Turmeric-Honey Mixture
Turmeric contains curcumin that acts as a decongestant and hence helps reduce allergy symptoms. Also, turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance.
A study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research reports curcumin to have anti-allergic properties with an inhibitory effect on histamine release from mast cells. However, more research is still needed.
- In a clean glass jar, put 6 tablespoons each of turmeric powder and raw honey. Stir the ingredients thoroughly. Eat 1 teaspoon of this mixture twice daily during the allergy season.
- Alternatively, use turmeric in your cooking and you can take turmeric supplements but only after consulting a doctor.
What is an Allergic Reaction?
Normally, the immune system mounts a response and creates antibodies to fight off foreign substances so you don’t get sick. Often, however, you suffer from an allergic reaction when your body identifies a substance as “foreign,” even though it may not be harmful!
The foreign substances (allergens) identified by the immune system can be anything from food to medication to environmental allergens.
Antibodies against substances respond in the presence of these same substances. The immune system reacts to these allergens, leading to the release of histamine, which is a chemical that mediates the allergic response and, consequently, the allergy symptoms.
An allergic reaction can cause symptoms of a wide range of severity, from what may be considered a minimal harmless nuisance to anaphylaxis and death! The manifestations of the allergic reaction can be in different parts of your body, including your airways, nose, skin, mouth, and digestive system.
What are the Different Types of Allergens?
Almost any substance can act as an allergen, be it food, drug, pollen, or insects, among many others.
- Food allergens, including nuts, shellfish, eggs, gluten, soy, seafood, and dairy products.
- Pollen, especially during its peak season of spring or fall, which can cause hay fever or rhinitis
- Medicines such as aspirin, antibiotics, and even possibly, albeit rarely, medicines used for the treatment of allergies!
- Stinging and biting insects such as bees, wasps, fire ants, and ticks
- Household pests including cockroaches and dust mites
- Chemical allergens or metals through detergents, beauty products, or hair dyes
- Saliva, dander, or urine of animals, especially pets such as dogs and cats
- Latex, which is commonly used to make gloves and condoms
- The mold that thrives in the corners of your house and the air you breathe
What is Anaphylaxis?
An allergic reaction usually takes its own time to pass away. However, some allergies can become severe and can lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.
This usually happens when certain allergens induce a severe allergic reaction accompanied by signs and symptoms that affect the heart, lungs, and various body parts.
Each individual may experience the signs and symptoms in a different manner, but the most common that are characteristic of an anaphylactic shock are:
- Swelling in the body tissues
- A sudden drop in blood pressure
- Abnormal heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
- Hives and itching all over the body
- Headaches and dizziness
- Trouble breathing and tightness in the chest
- Hemodynamic shock (drop in the blood pressure that requires treatment in an emergency department or an intensive care unit)
Who is Most Likely to Get an Allergy?
Allergies can occur in anyone irrespective of their age or health status. You might be allergic to something without being aware of it. Over time, individuals may outgrow an allergy. Food allergies tend to develop at a young age, while environmental allergies may develop at any point in time.
Some people may be susceptible to allergies as a result of the following factors:
- Genetic predisposition to asthma or allergies
- Being born by C-section
- Not getting enough exposure to sunlight
- Excessive exposure to pollutants or tobacco smoke
- Being male
How Do You Prevent Getting an Allergy?
You can prevent an allergy flare-up by taking steps to curtail your chances of being exposed to a possible allergen:
- Know your triggers and try to avoid them as much as possible to help alleviate symptoms.
- Do not line-dry your clothes and bedding, which may lead to the accumulation of pollen on the fabric.
- If you have pets, bathe them regularly. Pollen and other allergens can get caught in their fur.
- Vacuum your house regularly to keep it free from dust and irritants.
- Use portable air filters to help eliminate allergens from the indoor air. Use HEPA filter and get them cleaned often.
- During the allergy season, keep the windows and doors closed most of the time. Also, keep the car windows rolled up when driving.
- Keep your bed sheets clean.
- Disinfect your bathrooms to remove mold buildup.
- Stay indoors, especially when the pollen levels are high.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. This will help to thin secretions, making them easier to clear.
- Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke, as these can make your symptoms worse.
- Avoid smoke from wood-burning fireplaces.
- When mowing the grass, painting, cleaning, or using a vacuum, wear a mask.
- Reduce stress, which can make your condition worse.
When to See a Doctor
If you are aware of your allergies, anytime you experience a new symptom, such as the appearance of hives or rashes that are unusual, seek medical attention. It may help you identify and deal with the cause and symptom of the allergy.
However, severe and sudden symptoms call for emergency care to avoid any mishap. Do not delay and seek professional help as it may be a sign of an anaphylactic shock.
Diagnosis of Allergies
Allergies can be diagnosed by reviewing your personal and medical history. After a physical examination, skin tests are conducted to find the possible causes of the allergy. Skin tests are usually the most common method to detect food and environmental allergies.
The skin test is done to check if your skin responds differently within a time gap of 15 minutes when:
- The purified form of the allergen is placed on your skin followed by a slight scratching.
- The allergen is injected just beneath your skin.
A reddish lump similar to a mosquito bite on the site of allergen placement or injection indicates a positive response.
For people sensitive to particular allergens, individuals on medications, and children with skin diseases, blood tests are preferred.
- For skin rashes, apply olive oil on the affected area. Being rich in vitamin E and antioxidants, olive oil promotes healing and skin renewal.
- Regular application of aloe vera promotes healing and reduces the redness and itching of the skin rashes.
- Dab some calamine lotion on allergy-affected skin, as this anti-itch medicine causes a soothing, cooling feeling and provides relief from itchiness.
- For chronically dry skin that leads to rashes, you can try a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
An allergic reaction can occur in almost any individual. The best thing to do is to keep a track of your triggers and try to avoid or limit your exposure to them.
Although mild flare-ups pass away on their own and can be controlled, it is advised to seek medical help for chronic or sudden unusual allergic reactions as they may be indicative of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis should always be treated as a medical emergency.
Besides following a standard treatment method, natural strategies and following preventive measures can help relieve you from allergy symptoms.
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