Allergy season is unpleasant for many. If you are plagued with itchy eyes, a runny nose, or a sore throat, you want to find ways to feel your best.
It’s not always possible to get rid of allergies themselves, but there are many things you can do to reduce your allergen exposure, decrease allergy symptoms, and find relief.
In this article, I will cover ways to reduce allergy symptoms as well as how to prevent allergies. I will also discuss the causes of allergies, how healthcare providers diagnose allergies, and when to see a doctor about allergies.
How to Reduce Allergies Symptoms
From keeping your house extra clean to using over-the-counter treatments, there are many ways to try to reduce allergy symptoms.
Rinse your sinuses
If you are outside a lot or around things that trigger allergies, tiny pollen or dust particles can become trapped and aggravate your nasal passages, leading to ongoing allergy symptoms.
Using a neti pot or a saline nasal spray may help remove these particles.
It’s usually safe to rinse nasal passages twice daily, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Overwashing nasal passages can lead to increased irritation or dryness.
Even if you aren’t allergic to dust mites, a very dusty home can contribute to overall allergy symptoms.
It’s not enough to brush the dust off of surfaces, either, since it’ll end up back in the same place.
Consider using dusting rags that trap the dust, rather than move it.
You can also vacuum dust or wipe surfaces with a damp cloth to decrease how much dust gets stirred up while you are cleaning.
To minimize dust, reduce the amount of carpet in the home, which collects and produces dust as it breaks down from normal wear and tear.
You can also put protective covers on fabric furniture to reduce dust mites, or switch to leather or non-fabric furniture, which is easier to clean.
Keep your linen clean
If you are sensitive to environmental allergens, spending hours every night in a bed that might actively be collecting dust mites can be problematic.
Change sheets, pillows, blankets, and other linens frequently to prevent this buildup.
Wash bedding in the hottest possible water to remove allergens.
Alternatively, you consider purchasing hypoallergenic bedding.
These are able to withstand frequent washing and are usually made from materials that have a barrier function to dust mites.
If you are really sensitive, consider switching to a hypoallergenic mattress, or get a hypoallergenic mattress cover for your current bed.
Close the windows
As pleasant as fresh air can be, if you have allergies, keep your windows closed.
Whether you’re letting in pollen or other environmental irritants, or the fresh air is blowing dust mites around your house, open windows make it harder to control an internal environment for reducing allergy symptoms.
Use HEPA filters
Air filters and air purifiers trap particles in the air and prevent them from continuing to circulate.
This can be effective for dust, dust mites, pollen, and other allergens.
There are many types of air filters. HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are effective at managing allergens in the home.
You can get a whole-house filter installed on a heating and cooling system, or you can use individual room air purifiers.
In addition to air filters, consider having your ductwork cleaned every 2-5 years.
Dust can accumulate in home ventilation systems and contribute to worsening allergy symptoms and air quality.
Take extra steps when pollen counts are high
If you have seasonal allergies, consider minimizing time outdoors when pollen counts are extra high.
It’s not always possible to alter your schedule, but if you have a choice in whether an activity can be done outdoors or indoors, choose inside.
While you can’t always prevent allergy symptoms, there are many OTC treatment options that are effective.
They tend to fall under three categories: decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal sprays. Some medications combine decongestants with antihistamines.
As the name implies, these reduce nasal congestion and can help make breathing easier.
Decongestants for allergies come as pills or nasal sprays.
- Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
- Phenylephrine (Sudafed PE)
- Oxymetazoline (Afrin)
- Tetrahydrozoline (Tyzine)
Antihistamines block the effects of histamine, a chemical in the body that triggers allergy symptoms.
Several antihistamines are available OTC:
- Loratadine (Claritin)
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- Levocetirizine (Xyzal)
- Fexofenadine (Allegra)
- Antihistamine eye drops
The following oral medications combine antihistamines and decongestants, which may provide greater relief:
- Cetirizine and pseudoephedrine (Zyrtec-D 12 Hour)
- Desloratadine and pseudoephedrine (Clarinex-D)
- Fexofenadine and pseudoephedrine (Allegra-D)
- Loratadine and pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D)
There are several different nasal sprays available:
- Decongestant nasal sprays (oxymetazoline, tetrahydrozoline)
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays (fluticasone, budesonide, triamcinolone)
Some nasal sprays require a prescription:
- Azelastine hydrochloride (Astelin, Astepro, Optivar)
- Beclomethasone dipropionate (Beconase)
It’s not always possible to prevent allergies.
But some treatments and home remedies may help decrease symptoms from allergies.
Allergy shots are a type of immunotherapy that trains the immune system not to overreact to certain triggers. This may offer long-term relief from severe allergy symptoms.
Though not effective for all types of allergens, allergy shots may be effective for:
- Pollen from trees, weeds, and grass
- Dust mites
- Mold spores
- Pet dander
Allergy shots are not always covered by insurance, and they may not be effective for everyone. Immunotherapy courses typically require regular treatment for 3-5 years.
Reduce exposure to known allergy triggers
If you know what your allergy triggers are, reducing the amount of time you are in direct contact with them can help reduce symptoms.
Depending on what your allergens are, consider the following:
- Stay indoors on days when pollen counts are high, it is windy, or it has not rained for a while.
- Change your clothes as soon as you come into the house from being outside. Wash clothes in hot water to remove allergens.
- Wear a pollen mask if you are outside mowing the lawn, weeding, or gardening. Or delegate these tasks to someone else, if possible.
- Avoid outdoor clothing lines for drying laundry.
- Keep windows closed, especially on days when pollen is high, it is windy, or it has not rained recently.
Consider hypoallergenic pets
If you are allergic to pet dander and want a pet, consider a hypoallergenic dog.
Avoid choosing a long-haired cat or dog, as increased pet hair comes with more dander accumulation.
Do not sleep with your pets to minimize breathing in dander or pet hair while you sleep.
Vacuum at least twice per week to cut down on dust, dander, hair, and other allergens.
If possible, switch to a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which can reduce the spreading of allergens around while you are cleaning.
While humidifiers may help some allergy symptoms, if you are sensitive to mold, any excess moisture can worsen symptoms.
Always run vents or fans in bathrooms for at least 30 minutes after a shower.
Run a dehumidifier in areas where your home may get moist, such as basements.
Houseplants can have a calming effect, but they can accumulate dust mites and mold spores, triggering allergy symptoms.
Don’t keep dried flowers around either, as they can attract dust.
Cockroaches can be a major cause of indoor allergens. They are most common in cities and around the southern portion of the United States.
Even if you don’t know you have cockroaches, they could still be present.
Have an inspector check your home, or set traps to catch them. Do not leave food out that may attract insects of any kind.
Allergies happen when the immune system overreacts to a trigger.
While the thing it’s reacting to may be generally harmless for most people, your immune system has perceived the substance as a threat.
As a result, some cells in the body release histamine.
This leads to common allergy symptoms, including watery eyes, itching, sneezing, runny nose, and postnasal drip.
Most allergies are formed in childhood, but adults can also develop new allergies to foods or environmental triggers.
Common allergy causes include:
- Pollen from any type of plant (weeds, grass, trees, other plants)
- Dust and dust mites
- Pet dander or pet hair
- Rodent dander
A medical provider can run a few different tests when diagnosing allergies, including:
- Scratch or skin prick test: For this, a doctor places 10-50 different allergen samples on the skin. Then they use thin needles or a tool to barely scratch the surface of the skin. After about 15 minutes, they check your skin for any reactions. A rash or raised bumps may form around things that you are allergic to.
- Blood (immunoglobulin E) test: If your doctor wants additional confirmation about scratch test results, or if they suspect an allergen that a scratch test can’t identify, they may run blood work to check for certain types of antibodies that form in response to allergens. IgE laboratory testing can sometimes result in false positives.
When to See a Medical Provider
If you have allergy symptoms and cannot find relief with at-home care or OTC remedies, see a medical provider.
They can suggest prescription medication that may be more effective or test to determine what is causing your allergic reactions.
How K Health Can Help
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Allergies and Hay Fever. (2021).
How Many American Homes Have Pests? (2021).
Seasonal Allergies: Which Medication Is Right for You. (2019).
Seasonal Allergies at a Glance. (2019).