As the cold weather breaks and we begin looking forward to that beautiful spring weather, there’s one thing many of us don’t look forward to: allergies. Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, affects millions of people every year.
Allergy flare ups are caused by the body’s immune system essentially overreacting to something in the environment that normally isn’t a health risk.
A walk through your local drug store will reveal innumerable remedies for hay fever you can obtain over the counter. But before you reach for the drugs, it might be best to try to treat it at home first.
Symptoms of Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
In spite of it’s name, you don’t need to be around hay or have a fever to have hay fever. In fact, a fever isn’t even a regular symptom. If you do have a fever, you’re probably suffering from a viral or bacterial infection of some sort. If this is the case, you likely should see a doctor for diagnosis and medication.
The symptoms of hay fever are fairly universal. The most common symptom is a runny or stuffy nose frequently accompanied by sneezing. Watery or itchy eyes are also common. In some cases, you might experience itchy areas of the skin, especially around the mouth.
Secondary symptoms are also common. You might feel tired because a stuffy nose kept you awake at night. Your appetite may change because foods taste different when your nose is stuffy. You may also develop eye infections from constantly rubbing your eyes with unclean hands – these can be serious so it’s vital that you wash your hands regularly.
Determine What Type of Hay Fever You Have
Allergic rhinitis actually comes in 2 different types. What you do to treat them may differ slightly depending on what type you have.
Seasonal Hay Fever
If your allergies only kick up between spring and early fall, you most likely are suffering from seasonal hay fever.
Seasonal allergies are caused by pollen from grass, weeds, and flowers.
Perennial (Year-Round) Hay Fever
For those who suffer year-round, indoor air pollution is generally the culprit. Indoor air pollutants to blame are usually things like dust mites or pet dander. In some cases household mold could also be a problem.
If you smoke or live with someone who smokes, cigarette smoke can cause rhinitis as well as other strong-smelling chemicals.
Allergic Rhinitis Home Remedies & Treatment
Control Your Environment
For allergy sufferers, the most effective method of controlling your symptoms is to eliminate the allergen that’s causing the problem. For seasonal allergy sufferers, avoidance is key. This could mean staying indoors and keeping the windows closed during days when pollen is at its highest. This is especially true after spring rains when many trees and plants release large pollen blooms.
For year-round sufferers, determining the cause is the first step. Elimination of the allergen might not always be possible so mitigation is key. Vacuum daily to help keep pet dander at bay and ensure you’re using a vacuum with a high quality HEPA filter. Also ensure that you change your air filters in your HVAC frequently so the air moving throughout your home gets cleaned regularly.
Purchasing a good quality air filter for your home is also an good idea, especially for bedrooms. Look for a model that includes a HEPA filter and is energy efficient.
It’s important to remember that the immune system’s response to an allergen or irritant is designed to force the allergen or irritant out of the body. A runny nose helps to flush out pollen or other allergens. One of the things you can do is actually keep your sinus passages clean.
Consider trying a neti pot. These little miracles flush out everything from your nasal passages and help you breathe better. If you’ve never seen one, here’s a video below:
If you use a neti pot or any other type of nasal irrigation device, ensure you only use distilled water or water that has been boiled long enough to kill any germs or dangerous microorganisms.
Another thing you can try to help ease your allergic rhinitis is to purchase a humidifier. There’s some mixed science on whether these do more harm than good when it comes to allergies, especially if they aren’t cleaned regularly, they can end up spewing allergens into the air. In addition, a dirty humidifier can grow mold and send the spores into the air of your home.
That being said, if the air in your home is exceptionally dry (which can irritate sinuses), then a humidifier can help. You’ll want to maintain the humidity in your home to around 40-50%. This is high enough to keep the air ‘soft’ while not being so high as to encourage mold and dist-mite growth.
Like the neti pot, ensure you’re using distilled water for your humidifier and clean it regularly.
While it might come as a surprise, exercising can help alleviate hay fever and other symptoms of allergies. Increased blood flow that comes with physical activity helps the body remove allergens and other toxins faster.
Allergic Rhinitis: Final Thoughts
While it might be tempting to run to the drug store and burn some serious cash on allergy medicine, there are some things you can try before laying out all that dough.
Hay fever and allergies don’t have to keep you down.
Sources & Additional Reading:
1. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology: Allergic Rhinitis
2. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology: Humidifiers And Indoor Allergies
3. Total Gym Pulse: Fighting Allergies and Asthma with Exercise