Control Your Allergies Without Drugs

Roughly 35 million Americans dread "allergy season" each year... And I'm one of them.

I start to experience seasonal allergic rhinitis – or "hay fever" – in spring. I then spend about three weeks coughing, sneezing, and rubbing my itchy eyes.

Exactly how and when you experience symptoms depends on your trigger allergen...

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Seasonal allergies occur when your immune system treats pollen as an invader... producing antibodies to defend your body... and causing stuffiness, sneezing, itchy eyes, and coughing.

There is no cure for seasonal allergies, and the most common drugs folks use to relieve symptoms have harmful side effects. For example...

Claritin is a popular drug that blocks histamine (the chemical that causes allergy symptoms) binding to prevent allergies. But its side effects include drowsiness, headaches, constipation, and dry mouth. It can also raise your blood pressure.

Allergy shots work by regularly injecting small doses of the allergen causing your allergic reaction. However, they can take years to become effective and can have dangerous complications, like anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction).

Nasal sprays are a popular over-the-counter medicine to treat congestion. But the relief is only temporary and can actually cause your nasal lining to swell up, leading to even more congestion. And overuse can lead to holes in your nasal septum. Worse, the drugs can permanently kill your sense of smell.

I try not to use these potentially harmful drugs.

If you, like me, want to avoid drugs... try these alternative solutions...

Here are some "hygiene" steps you can take to reduce symptoms...

  • Close windows and doors during higher-pollen times.
  • Shower and change clothes after being outside.
  • Avoid going outside on dry, windy days when the pollen is blowing around or on days when the pollen counts are high. (You can check counts through's Allergy Tracker or
  • Don't exercise in the morning when counts are usually highest.
  • Use a HEPA air filter in your bedroom. I keep one in my bedroom and clean the filter once a week.

The Neti Pot is another of my preferred methods to cut down on allergies. This is an old Hindu device used to wash the sinuses.

But if you try it, be careful... and follow the instructions. If you don't use sterilized or distilled water, brain-eating organisms found in tap water can enter the brain through your sinuses. In late 2011, two deaths in Louisiana were blamed on the improper use of a Neti pot.

If my allergies get especially bad, or my eyes get itchy, one of the drugs that I will sometimes use is Zaditor, a histamine-receptor blocker. It helps me with nasal and eye reactions. I also like to use nedocromil sodium eye drops.

And if your allergy symptoms are severe enough... your doctor can prescribe other medications. (One colleague in our office says his airways get so constricted in the spring, his doctor prescribes asthma medications.)

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