If you’re one of the 50 million people in America suffering from seasonal allergies, you’re probably aching to get your hands on anything that can help soothe your allergy symptoms. And when it seems like there are more myths about treating seasonal allergies than remedies that work, it can leave you in a sniffly, itchy mess, willing the current season to just be over already.
Along with allergy-proofing your lifestyle, over-the-counter and prescription medications are highly recommended by allergists and among the safest, most effective ways to fight your seasonal allergy symptoms. “Other approaches, such as herbal remedies, don’t necessarily get the job done,” says Clifford Bassett, MD, an allergist at NYU Langone Health and author of the book The New Allergy Solution. “And they may not be safe for an individual child or adult with seasonal allergies.”
Even though many herbal or other “natural” remedies may not get a pass, Dr. Bassett says there are a couple of home remedies that he does recommend to help soothe your allergy symptoms.
1. Nasal irrigation
“My favorite natural remedy would be some form of nasal saline spray to wash and dilute some of the pollen that’s accumulating in your nose,” says Dr. Bassett. You can use store-bought nasal spray, or a homemade preparation and a device like a neti pot, he says. Neti pots look like little teapots with long spouts. They’re used to rinse the nasal passages with a saline solution (putting salt water into one nostril and draining it out the other). “It can be an important and injunctive step alongside using medications—both over the counter and prescription ones—to fight seasonal allergy symptoms,” says Dr. Bassett.
Nasal irrigation is considered safe and effective as long as it’s used properly. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, tap water that is not filtered, treated, or processed in specific ways can increase a person’s risk for infection. To be safe, use “distilled” or “sterile” water (which can be found in most grocery stores), boiled (make sure it’s fully cooled) tap water, or water filtered with filters labeled “NSF 53,” “NSF 58,” or “absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller.”
2. Pollen mask
Using a pollen mask (which looks like a surgical mask), can be very helpful as well, says Dr. Bassett. Wearing a pollen mask when you’re outdoors, especially if you’re doing yardwork or playing outdoor sports, helps blocks allergens from getting into your mouth and nose. Your best bet is to get a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask, which is available at home improvement stores.
“Bottom line is that if you have seasonal allergies, you want to do things that are safe and effective,” says Dr. Bassett. Just because treatments are out there, doesn’t mean they’re designed to reduce symptoms, he says. Check with your doctor or allergist before experimenting with any home remedies to make sure it will help, not hurt, your seasonal allergy treatment regimen.