10 Ways to Relieve Allergies

Take steps to avoid triggers and ease symptoms

Photo: Woman giving a treat to her dog outdoors

The very thought of pollen season may cause itchy eyes and a runny nose in some people. But you don’t have to suffer from flare-ups all season. “Have an allergy action plan,” says Clifford Bassett, MD, a clinical assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine. Try these 10 tips.

1. Take allergy meds sooner rather than later
Don’t wait until you have allergy symptoms before you start taking medicine. Ask your doctor as soon as possible about preventing symptoms before allergy season starts. Taking over-the-counter and prescription medicines, such as antihistamines, “pre-season” can help you avoid or limit symptoms later, Dr. Bassett says.

2. Stay indoors when pollen counts are high
Pollen comes from trees, flowers, and weeds. Check local news reports on pollen counts, and stay indoors when it’s high. Pollen counts are generally highest in the middle of the morning and start to dip in the middle of the afternoon. Love outdoor exercise? Get your sweat on in the early morning or evening.

3. Protect yourself with a hat and sunglasses
Wind-blown pollen can trigger allergies. On windy days, pollen can travel up to 500 miles in the air. Create a barrier by wearing a hat and sunglasses. The larger, the better, Dr. Bassett says. Wipe glasses clean when you go indoors.

4. Keep your hair clean and pollen-free
Hair gels, sprays, and waxes can help your hair look good but can make allergies take a turn for the worse. That’s because pollen clings to these sticky products. When you lie down at night, you’ll transfer any pollen to your pillow. “Then you’re in a pollen bath,” Dr. Bassett says. Limit hair product use, or take a shower after you’ve been outdoors.

5. Tackle indoor allergy triggers
Unfortunately, pollen isn’t the only common allergy trigger, and some common triggers may actually lurk in your home. The biggest in-home triggers? Dust mites, pet dander, and mold. Staying on top of your household chores can mean a cleaner home and allergy relief. Wash bedding in hot water weekly, and consider using mattress and pillow protectors. Keep pets out of the bedroom and off furniture. Seal leaky pipes and clean bathrooms regularly to limit indoor mold.

6. Choose allergy-friendly houseplants
If you have allergies, you may be sensitive to certain plants. Choose fragrance-free flowers, such as orchids or calla lilies, to decorate your home. Or pick an attractive houseplant that also naturally purifies the air. Bamboo, aloe, and snake plants are good options.

7. Tame stress and prioritize sleep
“When you reduce stress, you can reduce allergy symptoms,” Dr. Bassett says. Stress doesn’t cause allergies, but it can make symptoms worse. Try this simple breathing exercise: sit in a comfortable position, and take 20 deep breaths. Spending time with loved ones or on a hobby can also help ease stress. And don’t skimp on sleep, which helps your body stay strong.

8. Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of liquids
Onions, berries, and apples contain quercetin, an antioxidant that may have anti-allergy properties, early studies show. “The jury is still out whether there is such a thing as an anti-allergy diet,” Dr. Bassett says. But eating nutritious foods can help you stay healthy overall. Plus, drink plenty of water and low-sugar beverages, which can thin mucus and relieve congestion.

9. Identify your personal allergy triggers
Everyone has different triggers. Some people are most bothered by pollen, and others struggle more with dust mites or pet dander. Learn your triggers by recording your symptoms. Then take steps to avoid your triggers. If you can’t find relief, talk to your doctor or an allergist.

10. Be prepared with an allergy response kit
Keep a bag of allergy flare-up essentials in your home and car. Stock it with tissues, saline nasal spray, over-the-counter allergy medicine, a hat, sunglasses, and face wash or cleansing wipes, Dr. Bassett says. If your doctor has prescribed any emergency allergy medicine, be especially sure to carry and use it as directed.