Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is a condition in which a person gets a runny nose, watery eyes and itchy skin every time they are exposed to an allergen. An allergen is an otherwise harmless substance that causes your immune system to overreact. The most common allergens present in the air are dust, pollen and pet dander.

Allergic rhinitis may be triggered by changing seasons - seasonal allergies - or it could be present throughout the year - perennial allergic rhinitis.

If you are troubled by allergic rhinitis, it's best to find out what triggers your symptoms and avoid it whenever possible. If your symptoms are severe, it is best to visit a doctor.

In most cases, though, allergies can be managed through anti-histamines and some simple home remedies.

  1. Home remedies for allergic rhinitis

The first thing to do if you have allergic rhinitis is to identify the thing(s) that trigger your symptoms. Next, if possible, try to avoid exposure to those allergens. For example, if you are allergic to plant pollen during a particular season, try and avoid going out during that season or wear a mask when you do.

Reducing exposure to your allergen is a key step. Additionally, you can try these remedies for relief from existing symptoms from allergic rhinitis:

Air filters to get relief from allergic rhinitis

Installing an air purifier is one of the easiest and most effective ways to ward off pollutants from your home. In fact, air filtering is recommended as a strategy to control environmental pollution around allergic rhinitis patients.

The filters in air purifiers can trap various sizes of particulate pollutants - the finer the pore size, the more pollutants it can clear out.

HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are considered to be the most effective. They have a filter size of 0.3 microns and can clear around 99.9% of all pollutants.

A study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology indicated that HEPA filters are highly effective in improving indoor air quality and hence can be used to provide symptomatic relief to patients with allergic rhinitis.  A study done in Portugal showed that HEPA filters help reduce mould levels in hospital units.

However, there is still some debate in the scientific community on the effectiveness of air filters. A previous study had shown no improvement in symptoms of cat allergy in patients despite a reduction in allergen levels in the air. Another study suggested that HEPA filters don’t provide respite from allergic rhinitis symptoms in children. 

Dehumidifiers relieve allergic rhinitis symptoms

Dehumudifiers are yet another efficient and hassle-free way to control the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. These are devices that reduce the moisture content of the air and hence make it impossible for mould to grow. They also help reduce dust allergens.

There aren’t many studies that say a dehumidifier is a good choice to reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. However, mechanical ventilation has been shown to reduce the levels of indoor allergens in some studies.

Indoor humidity of 30% to 50% is considered to be most effective for reducing dust mites and other allergens. If you live in an area that naturally has low humidity, a dehumidifier is probably not the best thing to invest in. 

Nasal irrigation for allergic rhinitis

Nasal irrigation or saline irrigation is a traditional method of cleaning the sinuses. In this method, you pour a salt solution (saline) into one of your nostrils, which then comes out of the other nostril. The procedure rinses your nasal cavities and provides relief from a blocked nose.

A study published in the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy indicated that nasal saline irrigation is an effective complementary therapy for allergic rhinitis and has no side effects with regular use.

A review article which looked at seven studies showed that allergic rhinitis patients who use nasal irrigation report significant reduction in the severity of symptoms.

Here is how you can use a neti pot for saline irrigation:

What you’ll need

  • Saline solution (Can be bought from the market)
  • Neti pot

Procedure:

  • Fill the neti pot with the saline solution.
  • Stand over a sink with your head bent to a side - say, left.
  • Slowly start to pour the solution into your right nostril. The solution should ideally come out of your left nostril quickly. If it does not, pour a little bit of solution in a steady stream and wait a few seconds before pouring again.
  • Use only half the solution for one nostril and the other half for the other nostril.

You can also make the salt solution at home with sendha namak and lukewarm water.

Note: Make sure to clean your neti pot properly between use and store it in a clean and dry place. 

Steam inhalation for allergic rhinitis

Steam inhalation is one of the most common home remedies for nasal congestion. Studies have shown that it is highly effective in providing relief from the nasal obstruction in allergic rhinitis. The water vapours help to loosen the mucus in your sinuses so it can be easily expelled.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, you should inhale steam at least two to four times a day if you want to reduce congestion.

If you detest steam inhalation, you can try a steam bath instead. A steam bath is as effective as direct steam inhalation for unblocking your sinuses and giving you the much-needed relief.

Take vitamins to reduce allergic rhinitis symtpoms

Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory (affects immune function) agent. Studies show that it reduces nasal inflammation, and reduces the levels of histamines in the body to control the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

Similarly, Vitamin E supplements are indicated to be effective in relieving the symptoms of hay fever. A double-blind placebo study including 40 patients found that a daily dose of vitamin E is quite effective against allergic rhinitis. However, it is best to consult a doctor before taking any supplements since excess vitamins may also cause side effects. 

You can take both these vitamins from food. Citrus fruits like lemon and oranges and vegetables like broccoli, potatoes and spinach are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C is also found in papaya, pineapple, mango, tomatoes and watermelon. Some of the natural sources of vitamin E are seeds and nuts, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, and soybean oil and sunflower oil.

Aromatherapy for allergic rhinitis

Aromatherapy includes inhalation of essential oils for their therapeutic properties. They have quickly gained popularity despite the absence of concrete scientific evidence. However, in 2016, a study showed that aromatherapy may actually have some clinical significance after all. For the study, around 54 people aged 20 to 60 (of both genders) were given aromatherapy treatment from a 0.2% solution of sandalwood, geranium, or ravensara essential oil in almond oil or pure almond oil only for five minutes, twice a day for a week. After the week, all patients reported symptomatic improvement.

You can either put a few drops of oil in a diffuser or inhale through a cotton ball. Never use pure essential oils (without first mixing them with a carrier oil like almond oil or olive oil) as they may cause side effects. Some essential oils are corrosive when they come in direct contact with the skin.

Herbs and supplements for allergic rhinitis

The following herbs and supplements have been shown to be effective against allergic rhinitis. That said, please consult your doctor before using any of these herbs or supplements:

  • Stinging nettle: Fresh stinging nettle causes allergic reactions (itching and rashes) when touched. However, studies show that when used in the freeze-dried form, this herb acts in a way that is similar to anti-histamines. In a randomised double-blinded study, 69 patients with allergic rhinitis were given a 300 mg freeze-dried nettle for about a week. Most of the patients reported improvement in their symptoms. About 50% said that it was as effective as their medicines. Freeze-dried nettle is available in the form of capsules.
  • Spirulina: Spirulina is an alga which is often used as a nutritional supplement. Lab studies show the spirulina reduces the levels of inflammatory molecules in the body, and may thus be able to ameliorate allergic rhinitis symptoms. One study even suggested that spirulina could reduce histamine levels and the levels of IgE (the antibody responsible for eliciting allergic reactions) in the body. A clinical study found that spirulina supplements lead to a marked reduction in the symptoms of congestion, itching, sneezing and runny nose in hay fever patients. Spirulina is available in the form of tablets and capsules in the market.
  • Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia): Giloy is an excellent anti-allergy herb. Clinical studies show that giloy supplementation can provide symptomatic relief from allergic rhinitis and reduce the eosinophils in the blood of patients. Eosinophils are white blood cells that modulate allergic reactions. Their presence in the blood is hence an indicator of an infection or allergy.
  • Ginger: Ginger is traditionally used to treat respiratory allergies. Evidence suggests that ginger has an immunosuppressive action and is hence effective in reducing airway inflammation.
    This property is attributed to the presence of a compound called 6-gingerol, which inactivates specific cells in the immune system so it can’t overreact to the presence of otherwise non-harmful substances (allergens).
    Ginger also helps in preventing allergic rhinitis.
    You can take ginger in the form of tea. Just boil a tiny piece of ginger in a cup of water and a teaspoon of honey and you are good to go.
  • Liquorice root (Mulethi): Liquorice is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb that is known to be good for reducing allergies. A compound called glycyrrhizin present in liquorice root has shown potent anti-allergic action in vitro studies. However, there is no conclusive evidence or clinical studies to prove that liquorice consumption can provide symptomatic respite from allergic rhinitis.

Turmeric for allergy relief

Turmeric is a known anti-inflammatory agent. It also helps to reduce the signs of allergy, including seasonal allergies. Researchers have argued that the curcumin - yellow pigment - in turmeric prevents the release of histamines from mast cells, thereby combatting the effects of allergic rhinitis.

Mast cells are the main storehouse of histamines, which are responsible for the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Onion for allergy relief

Quercetin is a yellow coloured pigment found in foods such as onions, apples and grapes. It is a flavonoid with proven effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory agent. It is also said to mimic the action of an anti-histamine, to reduce the symptoms of seasonal hay fever. Studies have also claimed that it has anti-viral properties.

Eating raw onions - like in a salad - is one of the best ways of getting this plant pigment into your body.

Benefits of garlic during hay fever

The organosulfur compounds in garlic are said to have multiple benefits for health, including fighting allergies. Ironically, some people can also be allergic to garlic.

If you've grown up eating garlic in home-cooked food, chances are you are not allergic. If you are concerned, though, you can get a skin prick test (allergy test) to rule out a garlic allergy before using it as a remedy for allergic rhinitis.

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