Try an over-the-counter remedy
Several types of nonprescription medications can help ease allergy symptoms. They include:
- Oral antihistamines. Antihistamines can help relieve sneezing, itching, a runny nose and watery eyes. Examples of oral antihistamines include loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy) and fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy).
- Decongestants. Oral decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Afrinol, others) can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness. Decongestants also come in nasal sprays, such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine). Only use nasal decongestants for a few days in a row. Longer-term use of decongestant nasal sprays can actually worsen symptoms (rebound congestion).
- Nasal spray. Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can ease allergy symptoms and doesn't have serious side effects, though it's most effective when you begin using it before your symptoms start.
- Combination medications. Some allergy medications combine an antihistamine with a decongestant. Examples include loratadine-pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D) and fexofenadine-pseudoephedrine (Allegra-D).
Rinse your sinuses
Rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution (nasal irrigation) is a quick, inexpensive and effective way to relieve nasal congestion. Rinsing directly flushes out mucus and allergens from your nose.
Look for a squeeze bottle or a neti pot — a small container with a spout designed for nasal rinsing — at your pharmacy or health food store. Use water that's distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered using a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller to make up the saline irrigation solution. Also be sure to rinse the irrigation device after each use with similarly distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered water and leave open to air-dry.
Interested in alternative treatments? Consider these
A number of natural remedies have been used to treat hay fever symptoms. Treatments that may help include extracts of the shrub butterbur and spirulina (a type of dried algae). However, the benefits and safety aren't clear.
Some people claim acupuncture can help with seasonal allergy symptoms. There's some evidence that acupuncture works, and there's little evidence of harm.
Talk to your doctor before trying alternative treatments.
When home remedies aren't enough, see your doctor
For many people, avoiding allergens and taking over-the-counter medications is enough to ease symptoms. But if your seasonal allergies are still bothersome, don't give up. A number of other treatments are available.
If you have bad seasonal allergies, your doctor may recommend that you have skin tests or blood tests to find out exactly what allergens trigger your symptoms. Testing can help determine what steps you need to take to avoid your specific triggers and identify which treatments are likely to work best for you.
For some people, allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy) can be a good option. Also known as desensitization, this treatment involves regular injections containing tiny amounts of the substances that cause your allergies. Over time, these injections reduce the immune system reaction that causes symptoms. For some allergies, treatment can be given as tablets under the tongue.
Dec. 29, 2015
- Outdoor allergens: Tips to remember. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/outdoorallergens.stm. Accessed April 21, 2015.
- Gardening with allergies. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=19&cont=470. Accessed April 21, 2015.
- Indoor allergens: Tips to remember. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/indoor-allergens.aspx. Accessed April 21, 2015.
- Allergies and hay fever. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/content/allergies-and-hay-fever. Accessed April 21, 2015.
- de Shazo RD, et al. Pharmacotherapy of allergic rhinitis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 19, 2015.
- Seidman MD, et al. Clinical practice guideline: Allergic rhinitis. Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. 2015;152:S1.