Home Remedies for Allergies: What Works?

From Neti pots to steam, here are some ways to ease congestion and deal with allergy symptoms from the comfort of home.

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Photo: Anjelika Gretskaia/Getty Images

Seasonal changes aren't welcomed by everyone. For many of us, they're eclipsed by itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion of hay fever, and other allergies.

Some allergies are severe and require the attention of a healthcare provider. For milder cases, though, home remedies may provide all the relief you need with relatively little expense or hassle. Even people with bad allergies that require medication may find these at-home tips helpful for easing symptoms.

01 of 07

Neti Pot

Neti pots have become a mainstream remedy for allergies and stuffed-up sinuses. The treatment involves rinsing your nasal cavity with a saline solution, flushing out allergens (like pollen), and loosening mucus. You can buy them online or at your local drugstore (try the ComfyPot, which has many great reviews on Amazon).

Using a Neti pot is simple. First, fill the pot with a mixture of salt and warm water, which you can buy premeasured kits for or make your own. Then, tilt your head to the side and pour the solution into one nostril until it flows out the other, repeating the process on the opposite side.

Of note, you'll want to use boiled, distilled, or filtered water only, as tap water can introduce potentially dangerous organisms into your system, per the FDA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has information about which filters to buy if you choose filtered water for your Neti pot.

02 of 07

Nasal Spray

If you're looking for something similar to the Neti pot experience, prepackaged saline nasal spray ($6; amazon.com) is another option, and some people with allergies may find them easier to use. These sprays deliver saline solution a bit more gently and evenly, whereas pots can sometimes be a little "sloppy," said Robert Graham, MD, an internist and integrative medicine specialist formerly at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

However, nasal steroid sprays are typically one of the first remedies that may be tried for allergies, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy (AAOA); most are available as OTC sprays. These sprays help decrease inflammation, open nasal passages, and relieve symptoms including sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose.

03 of 07

HEPA Filters

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters ease symptoms by trapping allergens and other airborne irritants, such as pet dander and dust.

Portable air cleaners equipped with HEPA filters can purify the air in bedrooms and other confined spaces by themselves. However, whole-house systems that incorporate HEPA filters into your home's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, per the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have the potential to give you better air quality.

Air conditioners and dehumidifiers also can help clean air, Dr. Graham said. They remove moisture from the air and floor, which will curb mold growth and mildew that can worsen allergies.

Want to try a portable filter? We like the Honeywell HPA100 True HEPA Allergen Remover ($153; amazon.com), which helps circulate air five times an hour.

04 of 07

Herbs and Supplements

Some herbs and supplements—like eyebright and butterbur—have been studied for allergy relief. For example, in 2 mg doses, spirulina—a type of blue-green algae—was found to be more effective than 10 mg of cetirizine (known as Zyrtec) per researchers of a June 2020 Acta Otorhinolaryngologica Italica study.

However, it appears that herbs and supplements can help with the inflammation that comes with allergies. Dr. Graham suggested his patients first try bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple that is sometimes used to curb inflammation after sinus surgery. "It reduces swelling and improves breathing," Dr. Graham explained. "It's a safe first step."

Additionally, the plant pigment quercetin has also been identified as being helpful for allergies, according to a May 2016 Molecules article, based on its anti-inflammatory properties. Further, you could also consider drinking hot herbal teas that include parts of plants like ginger or stinging nettle for allergy relief since they can help with inflammation as well.

Still, research is ongoing for these options to confirm or deny their effectiveness in treating allergies. Additionally, before trying any herbs or supplements, you'll want to talk to your healthcare provider to ensure that those options will not interact with any medications you may be taking.

05 of 07

Showering

Anyone who has even been stuffed up knows the impressive ability of a steaming hot shower to soothe sinuses and clear nasal passages, if only temporarily.

But showers offer an added benefit for individuals with spring allergies. A quick rinse after spending time outdoors can help remove allergens from your skin and hair—and prevent them from spreading to clothes, furniture, pillowcases, and other surfaces where they're likely to make your allergies flare up.

This is especially true if you've been gardening. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) recommended stripping off your shoes and clothes and showering immediately if you've been weeding, pruning, or planting.

06 of 07

Steam

Other methods of inhaling steam—like store-bought vaporizers, for instance—can flush out mucus and moisten dry nasal passages nearly as well as a shower.

A December 2021 Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology study investigated how inhaling steam could help patients with allergic rhinitis (nose-related allergy symptoms). The researchers found that steam inhalation helped open nasal passages and alleviated other symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and facial pain.

The easiest method is to pour boiling water into a bowl or other container, drape a towel over your head to form a tent, and inhale deeply through your nose for five to 10 minutes. (Be careful not to get your face too close to the water, as you may scald yourself.) If you find yourself really clogged up, this may be more convenient than taking several showers a day.

07 of 07

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil's strong, piney aroma can supercharge steam inhalation, helping to open your sinuses and nasal passages further. The oil's vapor provides a bracing, menthol-like sensation that can make breathing seem easier.

Try adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil like this one from Healing Solutions ($6; amazon.com) to a bowl of steaming water or the shower floor before you step in. Just don't swallow the oil or apply it directly to your skin; per MedlinePlus, it's toxic in concentrated amounts.

If you find home remedies aren't as effective in relieving your allergy symptoms, talk with your healthcare provider to determine what other options may be helpful.

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