Pass the tissue: Home remedies for hay fever



Excuse me. Like many other people I've run into lately, my seasonal allergies are kicking up.

Allergies, which I should note, barely phased me until I moved into the Cumberland Valley. It was the same with my husband and children. We had heard of hay fever, but none of us had appreciably experienced it for ourselves.

I once mentioned this to a physician. He told me that seasonal allergens get trapped here between the surrounding mountains. In another geological setting, say on a plain or a mountain top, allergens are free to blow away and disperse.

Here in the valley, though, allergens are confined, leaving an especially runny-nosed, watery-eyed, coughing population in their wake.

So I dragged my miserable self to the pharmacy and shelled out money for antihistamines. I watched for sales on over-the-counter varieties, cut coupons and tried generic brands. But with a family of six alternately tipping tinctures and popping pills, it still wasn't cheap.


In addition, I found the drowsiness that ensues after taking the typical antihistamine to be highly impractical. I tended to opt for non-drowsy counterparts, but I couldn't help but wonder if there were better options.

I've since explored home remedies for the symptoms of hay fever. Most are inexpensive compared to mainstream medications. Because I don't have a medical background, I can't vouch for the efficacy of every item on the following list. But I am working my way through and in many cases, I've been pleased with the relief I've found. As always, consult your physician.

Plan outdoor time. Researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) say the best way to treat allergy symptoms is to avoid allergens to begin with. Pollen is usually at its peak mid-morning, early evening and when the wind is blowing. Consider this when scheduling outside activities.

Gargle with saltwater. My mom taught me this remedy when I was a girl and it never fails to relieve a sore throat. Mix one or two teaspoons of table salt in eight ounces of warm water. Gargle "The Star Spangled Banner" for a simultaneous spirit booster.

Eat well. Stock up on plums and broccoli, because vitamin C has been shown to reduce nasal secretions and inflammation. Polyphenols found in grapes and Omega 3 fatty acids found in foods such as walnuts, beans, fish and olive oil also are believed to reduce allergic response.

Avoid certain foods. People with an allergic sensitivity to ragweed might also be allergic to certain foods. Keep an eye out for reactions to possible symptom-provoking foods like bananas, melons, sunflower seeds and cucumbers.

Drink hot drinks. Liquids with calming ingredients like honey or chamomile act as a mild cough suppressant while soothing the throat. Plus the steam can relieve congestion. Some studies indicate that green tea inhibits the production of chemicals involved in allergic reactions.

Irrigate with saltwater. Nasal irrigation with a saline solution helps slacken a stuffy nose. You can buy a bottle of solution for a few dollars at the pharmacy, or make your own and flush your nose using a small squeezable bottle or a Neti Pot.

Spice it up. Dishes containing cayenne pepper, hot ginger, onions or garlic help to thin mucus and clear nasal passages.

Humidify. Moisture alleviates dry eyes and a runny nose, and makes breathing easier for most allergy sufferers. But be careful not to overdo it. Humidity more than 40 percent can be counterproductive, encouraging the growth of indoor allergens like mold and dust mites.

Try compresses. A clean cool cloth over the eyes reduces itchiness and inflammation. Warm compresses applied to the face help soothe sinus pressure and pain.

Employ herbs. Licorice root, nettle leaf, perilla extract and other natural remedies are believed to relieve allergic response.

Close your windows. It's nice to snuggle under a warm blankets and fall asleep breathing in the crisp night air. But breathing in animal dandruff and pollen - not so much. Forego the open windows and if you like it cool, turn on a fan.

Just cough. It is your body's natural way of clearing the respiratory tract and lungs, so don't go overboard trying to completely suppress it.

For more ideas, search Web sites such as or .

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her e-mail address is

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