Allergic Rhinitis Self-Care
Medications are often the key to handling nasal allergies and sinus problems. But there’s also a lot that you can do on your own. Here are some suggestions.
Nasal irrigation. To the uninitiated, squirting salt water in your nose might seem to be a bizarre treatment for nasal allergies. But it works. “Some trials found that nasal irrigation works as well as antihistamines in reducing symptoms,” says Bowser. There’s evidence that it relieves sinus symptoms, too.
The principle is simple. By washing out your nasal passages and sinuses with salt water, you clear out the allergens that are triggering your symptoms -- along with bacteria and excess mucus. “It’s just like cleaning your furnace filter,” says Bernstein. “If you want good air quality in your home -- or your lungs -- the filters have to be clean.” If you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses, use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry.
Experts say that simple Neti pots or squeeze bottles seem to work as well as more expensive devices. Keep in mind that nasal irrigation (which flushes out the nasal passages) is different from spray bottles of saline (which merely moisten them.)
Neti pots and other nasal irrigation devices are available in drugstores, supermarkets, and online. Basic Neti pots cost about $10 to $15, while fancier irrigation devices can cost $100 or more.
Environmental control. If you can reduce your exposure to an allergen, you’ll help reduce your symptoms. So take some sensible precautions around the home. If you’re allergic to dust mites, buy a mattress cover to keep them out. If it’s pollen, keep the windows shut and use air conditioners to filter the air. If it’s cat dander, keep the animal out of your bedroom. Consider trying out a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. However, don’t break the bank trying to make your home allergen-free. It’s impossible. “Environmental control is a great first step,” says Bowser. “But in most cases it’s not enough to control symptoms.”
Moist air. If the air is dry and you’re having sinus problems -- like pain and pressure -- keep your nasal passages moist. Use a humidifier or vaporizer (and keep it clean). Other suggestions: Take long showers, apply warm compresses over your nose and mouth, and breathe in steam from a pot on the stove. Just make sure not to make your home too swampy. Dust mites, a common cause of allergies, thrive in humidity.
Protection. If you know you’re going to be exposed to an allergen, take some precautions. If you need to rake outside during pollen season, for example, wear a mask and goggles to protect yourself – or get someone else to do it.
Supplements. Some people want to treat their allergies without drugs and hope to find a “natural” cure instead. There is evidence that supplements such as butterbur and quercetin can help with allergy symptoms. But talk to your doctor first. A few popular cold and allergy supplements, including butterbur and echinacea, are related to ragweed. They can actually trigger an allergic reaction.