When I was young, I laughed in the face of pollen. Mold? No problem. Dust? Ha. Blooming flowers and pollinating bees? Bring it on.
Now, the story looks (and feels) somewhat different. I no longer scoff at allergy sufferers, because I am now one of them. These are my go-to spring allergy home remedies—they really do help keep symptoms at bay, and they’re free!
1. Keep indoor air in, and outdoor air out.
My dad is a great proponent of this strategy, and it really helps him battle his more severe allergy reactions. You don't need to buy a special air filter (although this may help).
- What to do: Close doors and windows, and enter/exit your home quickly to minimize air transfer. Change your A/C filters more frequently during allergy season. Wearing a simple paper breathing mask when outdoors can also filter out many allergen particles (you can get one from your doctor for free, or for very cheap at a local drugstore—ask for a N95 Respirator Mask).
2. Wash, wash, wash.
When you’re struggling with allergies, cleanliness is golden. Here’s why—if you were outside for any length of time, there is a good chance your skin/clothes/hair/shoes have picked up some allergen particles that are now clinging along for the ride.
- What to do: Do more laundry. Leave your shoes just inside or outside the door. Wash your hair, face, and hands more frequently. Take a shower and change clothes when you come home. All of these actions will separate you from any clinging pollen, dust, mold, or other allergens.
3. Make friends with a Neti Pot.
I love my Neti pot. I use it daily. Nasal rinses can help clear out allergens you have breathed in that are now clinging to your sinus passages, irritating your sensitive tissues, and causing postnasal drip. You don't have to buy the expensive pre-mixed Neti solution or even buy an "official" Neti pot to do this.
- What to do: Mix together 8 ounces of warm distilled or spring water with ½ teaspoon salt and a tiny pinch of baking soda. Use a clean squeeze bottle, nasal bulb, or (if you have one), a Neti pot to pour the solution into one nostril and let it drain out the other. Be sure to do this over a sink, and switch nostril sides halfway through.
4. Drink strategically.
Postnasal drip, allergy medications, and your body's increased efforts to fight off irritants can leave you feeling dehydrated, which can also make it harder for your body to clear out fluids and mucus.
- What to do: Drink electrolyte-enhanced water, spring water, tea, broth, and other nutritious liquids. Warm liquids in particular may help you feel more tangible relief.
5. Breathe over steaming water.
In lieu of, or in addition to, a Neti pot (see #3), breathing over hot, steamy water has been a lifesaver for me. It opens up congested, swollen nasal passages and eases chest constriction.
- What to do: Heat a pot of water to steaming (almost boiling is best). Take it off the stove and put it on a hot plate. Get a towel, and drape it over your head, neck, and shoulders. Take a cautious first breath—here, be careful the steam is not so hot it burns! Continue to breathe in and out as deeply as you can, holding in your breath for a few moments before letting it out again. This will help dislodge stuck mucus deep in your lungs.
6. Skip the harsh cleaning products.
If you are already feeling the effects of irritated nasal passages, the last thing you need is the scent of harsh cleaning products! Many of these products are so irritating to the airways that doctors recommend not using them around young children or pets—which means you probably shouldn't use them around you either!
- What to do: Mix together equal parts vinegar (or baking soda) and water and use as an all-purpose cleaning spray. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon, lime, or orange for non-irritating scent.
7. Make an apple cider (vinegar) drink.
While I may not be the hugest fan of how this drink tastes, when I've been really battling allergy symptoms, it has saved the day for me.
- What to do: Mix one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar into 6 ounces of water and drink it straight. It will sanitize and soothe as it detoxes your nasal and throat passages.
Note: If you simply can't swallow this, try a tablespoon of local honey instead!
8. Eat your yogurt
Finally, probiotics seem to be the all-purpose cure for many digestive ailments today, because they increase the incidence of healthy bacteria in your gut. These are the same bacteria that can help your body absorb good nutrients and fight off bad irritants that cause allergies.
- What to do: Eat a cup of yogurt with active yogurt cultures daily (I personally like Kefir, which is more like a yogurt smoothie).