Conditions > Seasonal Allergies
Natural Treatment of Seasonal Allergies (Allergic Rhinitis)
- Best natural allergy relief is avoidance of the allergen, nasal irrigation using a neti pot, frequent showering, acupuncture, and herbal extracts like Butterbur extract.
- Less natural but faster acting allergy relief can come from nasal steroid sprays and antihistamine medication.
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What causes seasonal allergies?
For reasons still unknown, there are certain compounds and elements in your environment to which your body may be allergic to. These compounds are called allergens.
Depending on the type of allergen you are sensitive to, you may be suffering from seasonal allergies, or year-round, perennial allergies. Some of the most common allergens can include:
- Grass pollen (Summer)
- Tree pollen (Spring)
- Ragweed pollen (Fall)
- Mold spores (Year-round)
- Pet hair and dander (Year-round)
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, your allergen triggers your body to start histamine production, which in turn causes inflammation of your nasal passages, along with your body’s defense mechanisms to become active. This reaction is called allergic rhinitis.
This allergy cascade leads to familiar symptoms of an allergy attack. Allergy symptoms can include sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, skin rash, fatigue, headaches, and even irritability.
What am I allergic to?
To identify which allergens you’re sensitive to, you’ll most likely have to see your physician or allergist who can perform a skin test to identify which of the most common allergens in your city or town you’re sensitive to.
In addition to an allergy test, pay attention to your own experiences around the common allergens listed below.
Does your hand itch and do your eyes water after your aunt’s cat rubs up against your leg? You are probably (at least a little) allergic! If you are concerned about allergies, become aware of how you respond to your surroundings.
Common allergy triggers
Spring allergy triggers
With spring come blooming trees and their highly allergenic pollen. Be aware of the trees listed below during the months of March to May. Some trees begin blooming as early as February. Popular allergy-causing trees include:
- Ash trees
- Birch trees
- Cypress trees
- Elm trees
- Hickory trees
- Maple trees
- Oak trees
- Poplar trees
- Sycamore trees
- Walnut trees
- Western red cedar trees
Summer allergy triggers
By the time summer arrives, most trees have already bloomed. Most allergens during the months of May to August include grass and weed pollen. Popular allergy-causing grasses and weeds include:
- Russian thistle
- Bermuda grass
- Blue grasses
- Orchard grass
- Red top grass
- Sweet vernal grass
- Timothy grass
Fall allergy triggers
As summer ends and fall begins, ragweed pollen will be the biggest culprit of seasonal allergies during the months of September to November. Fall allergies are most often caused by the following allergens:
- Mold spores
- Pet dander
- Indoor molds
What is the best natural allergy relief?
The best natural allergy remedy is avoidance of the allergen to which you’re sensitive! Once an allergic reaction starts, it can take days or weeks to remedy. It’s much easier to avoid the allergen as often as possible.
To avoid your allergens, use allergy forecast websites and track pollen counts around places you frequent. Keep your windows and doors closed during peak times for your allergen. Stay healthy, drink lots of water, and get plenty of rest to help your body deal with the added stress of allergic rhinitis.
But what can you do if the allergen is unavoidable, or just so happens to come in the form of the beloved family pet? The good news is there are both natural remedies as well as over-the-counter (OTC) medications you can use to improve your quality of life during allergy season.
Natural relief from allergies
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you’re most likely exposed to pollen. Frequent showering that includes a quick mid-day shower and a quick shower before bed can help remove excess pollen from your skin and hair during peak pollen seasons.
Neti pot for allergy relief
Your allergen enters your body through the nasal passage. Nasal irrigation using a neti pot can help clean the nasal passage, remove excess mucous, and get rid of any allergens with which you have come in contact.
There are many options for the kind of neti pot you can use, but I recommend NeilMed’s Sinus Rinse (this is not a paid endorsement – only a genuine recommendation from both my wife and myself). Please follow the instructions of any nasal irrigation device you use and make sure to use distilled water.
Acupuncture for nasal congestion
Acupuncture treatment for allergies can be an effective way to treat seasonal allergies and generally improve quality of life during allergy season. If you suffer from persistent allergies, regular acupuncture treatments can help relieve nasal congestion and even improve sleep quality.
Herbal remedies for allergies
Herbal remedies can naturally calm your body’s inflammatory response to an allergen. Butterbur herbal extracts are particularly effective at relieving nasal congestion, perhaps as well as its drug counterparts but without the drowsiness.
As with any herbal extract, be cautious when buying these over-the-counter. Confirm the manufacturer uses certified organic herbs, and uses the correct part of the plant when mixing the formula. You can do this by directly contacting the manufacturer.
Diet changes for seasonal allergy relief
A healthy diet, as with most things related to your health, is always better than an unhealthy one. Although there is no specific diet to relieve seasonal allergies, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and drinking plenty of water can decrease the overall inflammatory levels within your body.
Realize it is possible that in addition to seasonal allergies, you may also have food sensitivities that trigger your body’s allergic response. The best way to identify which foods to avoid is to see your physician or allergist.
Best allergy medications
Other remedies that are less natural but perhaps quicker to provide allergy relief, include nasal steroid sprays and antihistamine medications.
Combining a nasal steroid spray with an antihistamine medication can provide relief from allergic symptoms once your allergic reaction has already been triggered. Once an allergic reaction has begun, it can be difficult to remedy.
Nasal steroid spray for allergies
Steroid sprays apply a steroid directly into the nasal passages and reduce inflammation, congestion, and sneezing. According to research, steroid sprays are safe for long-term use, despite the negative connotation of the word “steroid”.
Realize that steroid sprays require up to a week to begin working fully, so it’s not something you can turn to for immediate relief.
Antihistamines suppress your body’s production of histamines, which result in the allergic inflammatory response.
You’ve most likely seen commercials for Claritin or Zyrtec, both of which can safely be tolerated by most people. However, taking these medications long term may lead to still unknown side effects. There are some studies that now link long-term and high dosage antihistamine use to dementia.
As with any drug, the longer you use it, the higher your chances of experiencing some degree of toxic poisoning. But short-term use of antihistamine medications during peak allergen season can be safely tolerated by most people. If you have concerns about taking medications, your doctor can safely guide you through the process.
Is permanent allergy relief possible?
All of the treatments listed above only treat the symptoms caused by your allergies. As soon as the treatment is taken away, your immune system will again overreact when it interacts with the allergen.
The best available solution to permanent relief from your allergies is using immunotherapy, or allergy shots.
Immunotherapy for allergies slowly introduces the allergen into your system until your body builds up a natural tolerance. An immunotherapy treatment can take years to complete, and depending the severity of your allergy may only provide minimal, if any relief.
However, for most people, immunotherapy works and is the most natural and permanent way to living a life free of seasonal or perennial allergies.
What causes allergies? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/symptoms-causes/syc-20351497
Most popular allergens? https://www.webmd.com/allergies/summer-allergies
Can acupuncture help relieve congestion? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5765676/
Does butterbur help relieve congestion? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16608208
Are steroid nasal sprays safe? https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/steroid-nasal-sprays/
Do antihistamines cause dementia? https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/common-anticholinergic-drugs-like-benadryl-linked-increased-dementia-risk-201501287667
Written by: Dr. Dan Williams, DO
Last edited: August 28, 2018