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Home > Health Archive > Get Fast Relief from Seasonal Allergies

Get Fast Relief from Seasonal Allergies

Allergy Relief
Fast Relief from Seasonal Allergies


By: Tricia O'Brien

Make this your first allergy-free spring with our easy three-part plan.

If you're one of the 26 million people nationwide with seasonal allergies, no doubt you're suffering right now with sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, and other frustrating symptoms that add up to pure hell.

Simply put, you're suffering because your body is extra-sensitive. "Certain individuals' immune systems overreact to external stimuli like pollen, grass, and ragweed," says Ben Kligler, M.D., associate medical director of Beth Israel Hospital's Continuum Center for Health and Healing in New York City. "When your immune system encounters an offensive particle, or allergen, it mounts a defensive response and releases a cascade of inflammation to fight it off." Inflammation triggers most allergy symptoms.

But you'll find relief right away with our three-step plan. Start with steps 1 (follows "Clear Your Congestion Fast") and 2. If you're still suffering after two to four weeks, move on to step 3.

Clear Your Congestion Fast
1. Mix 1 cup filtered lukewarm water with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour into a neti pot, pictured above.
2. Lean over a sink. Tilt your head to the left. Press the neti pot spout to your right nostril and tip the pot. Water should trickle out your left nostril.
3. Lower your head over the sink. Exhale forcefully through your nose. Repeat on the opposite side.


Allergy Relief   Allergy Relief

Step 1: Get Fast Relief

Try these therapies daily when you're suffering from allergy symptoms. The first five therapies work quickly but their benefit is temporary. The remaining two provide longer-lasting relief.

Allergy Relief


Sample Spicy Foods. Eating hot foods clears nasal congestion temporarily. Use the Japanese condiment wasabi or sprinkle cayenne pepper on your food. Consider placing a small bowl of horseradish on your bedside table. A quick whiff in the night will help you breathe easier, says Sylvia Goldfarb, Ph.D., of Wyncote, Pa., author of Allergy Relief (Avery Penguin Putnam, 2000).

Sniff Essential Oils. Inhaling steam scented with essential oils clears your sinuses, Kligler says. Boil 1 quart of water in a medium-size pan, remove it from the heat, and add 10 drops of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) essential oil. Stand over the pot and drape a towel over your head to create a tent. Breathe deeply for several minutes. When you're in a hurry, Goldfarb says, add 2 to 3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a handkerchief, stash it in a small sealed bag, and take a whiff as needed during the day.

Know the Neti Pot. A neti pot rinses mucus and pollen grains from your nose and sinuses and soothes your mucous membranes. It resembles a palm-size Aladdin's lamp and is found at most natural food stores. Fill the pot with a solution of 1 cup filtered lukewarm water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lean over a sink. Tilt your head to the left, press the spout to your right nostril to make a tight seal, and tip the pot. If your position is correct, water will trickle out your left nostril. Be patient; this can feel like getting water up your nose while swimming, and it takes a few tries to master. When the pot is empty, exhale forcefully through both nostrils. Repeat on the opposite side. Use the neti pot up to three times a day.

Spritz a Nasal Spray. As a convenient alternative to the neti pot, make a saline nasal spray, says Robert Ivker, D.O., a holistic physician in Littleton, Colo., a Natural Health advisory board member, and the author of Sinus Survival (Putnam, 2000). Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, a pinch of baking soda, and 1 cup of lukewarm filtered water in a travel-size spray bottle. Close your left nostril and inhale as you spritz the solution directly into your right nostril. Repeat on the opposite side. Ivker also manufactures his own mixture, Sinus Survival Spray, which contains herbs that heal mucous membranes (1.75 fl. oz.; $7.95; 888-434-0033;

Experiment with Acupressure. Using your fingers to apply pressure to specific points on your body can ease symptoms. You don't necessarily press where it hurts; in fact, acupressure points on your hand can relieve sinus congestion. Pinch the webbing between your thumb and index finger and push toward the bottom knuckle of your index finger. Maintain pressure for two minutes while breathing deeply; repeat on the other hand.

Try an Herbal Antihistamine. The herb stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is believed to slow your body's production of the inflammatory chemical histamine, but without dry mouth and the other side effects of prescription antihistamines. Take two 300 mg capsules of freeze-dried stinging nettle daily from the onset of symptoms to the end of allergy season, Kligler says.

Opt for Homeopathy. This system of medicine uses highly diluted substances from plants, animals, or minerals that in larger doses could cause the very symptoms they treat. For example, Allium cepa, a remedy made from onions, treats hay fever, an ailment that resembles the symptoms of someone peeling an onion, says Jennifer Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., an Edmonds, Wash.-based family physician, homeopath, and member of the Natural Health advisory board. Try Allium cepa first. (Find homeopathic remedies at natural food stores and follow package dosage instructions, Jacobs says.) If it doesn't reduce your symptoms in about a day, try Euphrasia officinalis (if your eyes burn, itch, or water) or Nux vomica (if your symptoms are worse in the morning and when you're indoors, and if your nose is stuffy at night).

Individual remedies are more potent, but if you're not sure which one is right for you, try a combination remedy. It allows you to try several substances at once. One such product is Boericke & Tafel's Alleraid (40 tablets; $9.50; 800-888-4066; For eyes that sting and burn from allergies, try Boiron's Optique 1 homeopathic eye drops (10 doses; $6.40; 800-264-7661;


Step 2: Build Yourself Up

Once you've experimented with the quick fixes in step 1, move on to these tips, which boost your immune system so that you're less reactive to allergens like pollen.

Eliminate Foods that Inflame. Inflammation plays a role in most of the symptoms of an allergy attack, so cut back on foods that make inflammation worse. The two most important are saturated fat (found in dairy foods and animal protein) and refined foods (which contain white flour and sugar), says John Hibbs, N.D., a naturopath affiliated with Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash. Limiting your intake of common food allergens, like citrus, corn, dairy, peanuts, soy, and wheat, will also minimize the overstimulation of your immune system. You could be allergic to a food, thereby forcing your body to fight a food allergen while it's also struggling with pollen or another seasonal allergen.

Add Flavonoids to Your Diet. These antioxidant plant pigments, found in berries, citrus fruits, and onions, strengthen your mucous membranes and stabilize your immune cells. Consume two or more servings of flavonoid-rich foods a day.

Increase Your Intake of EFAs. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) fight inflammation. To reach your EFA quota, consume at least three servings of cold-water fish (like salmon, mackerel, and sardines) weekly; eat a quarter cup of nuts and seeds, including flaxseeds and walnuts, daily; and cook with olive oil often and drizzle it on your salads.

Pop Antioxidants. Some supplements may alleviate allergies when taken over a long term. The two most important are quercetin (an antioxidant flavonoid that may prevent your cells from releasing histamine, the chemical that provokes inflammation and allergy symptoms; take 400 mg three times a day) and grapeseed extract (another antioxidant that may limit inflammation; take 100 to 200 mg three times a day). For best results, start taking both two to three weeks before your allergies usually flare up. Continue to take them throughout the allergy season, even after you experience relief.

Reduce Your Stress. Emotional triggers can bring on allergy attacks. "Next time you start sneezing and wheezing, ask yourself: What was I just thinking about? What am I feeling now?" Ivker suggests. He recommends keeping a journal. "By paying attention and writing down what you were thinking or feeling just before the onset of the allergy attack, you will learn so much about yourself," he says. As a bonus, journal writing may reduce your stress.

Create Optimal Indoor Air. If you're constantly exposed to air pollution at home and work, your mucous membranes will be hypersensitive to pollen, Ivker says. He suggests keeping a negative-ion generator in your workspace and bedroom. Negative ions draw airborne particles like dust, pollen, and cigarette smoke out of the air. A healthy supply of negative ions also stimulates your cilia, the tiny hairs on your mucous membranes that sweep pollen out of your lungs, nose, and sinuses.

Step 3: Call in the Professionals

If self-care doesn't alleviate your symptoms, consider seeing a practitioner of one of the following natural therapies.

See a Homeopath. If treating yourself with homeopathy doesn't help, visit a homeopathic practitioner for a more thorough evaluation and more tailored remedy. Homeopaths ask you about everything, from your sleep patterns and food cravings to sexual energy and dreams, and then choose a remedy that closely matches your temperament and symptoms. After the first dose, "you should expect to see some degree of relief in a few days to a week," Jacobs says. A preliminary visit costs about $200 to $400; follow-up visits every six to eight weeks run about $75 each. To locate a practitioner, contact the American Institute of Homeopathy at 888-445-9988 or

Find a Well-Rounded Doctor. Holistic doctors receive conventional medical training and combine it with treatments like nutrition, supplements, or mind-body medicine. Naturopathic doctors use similar treatments, but can't perform surgery or prescribe medicine in most states. A visit to either kind of doctor may involve blood tests and questions about your diet and lifestyle. Expect to pay $100 to $200 for the first visit and $45 to $100 for follow-ups. To locate a holistic doctor, contact the American Holistic Medical Association at 703-556-9728 or (It offers practitioner directories for $10.) To find a naturopath, contact the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians at 703-610-9037 or Holistic and naturopathic doctors aren't common in all parts of the country; look for both types to increase your chances of finding one.

Investigate NAET. Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET) is an amalgam of therapies, including acupressure and massage, designed to get rid of your allergies for good. After performing tests of your muscle strength to reveal blocked energy channels in your body, a practitioner applies acupressure near your spinal column as you hold an allergen in your hand. This removes the energy blockage and eliminates the allergy, says Robert Prince, M.D., a NAET practitioner in Charlotte, N.C. As bizarre as it sounds, many NAET patients swear by the treatment. Most practitioners say you need 10 to 12 treatments for permanent change. Expect to pay about $90 for an initial visit and $50 for follow-ups. Visit to locate a practitioner.

Consider Provocative Neutralization. Performed mainly by practitioners known as clinical ecologists, this controversial technique involves being injected with minute dilutions of common allergens or slipping doses of them under your tongue. If the substance triggers your symptoms (like a stuffy nose or itchy eyes), the practitioner gives you additional doses until your symptoms stop, says Cambor Wade, an ecology specialist with the Center for Environmental Medicine in Portland, Ore. After that, you take doses throughout the allergy season (the size and frequency of your dose is determined by the results of your symptom test). Each appointment costs between $30 and $40; expect to visit at least three times for treatment. For more information, contact the American Academy of Environmental Medicine at 316-684-5500 or

Try Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). A visit to a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner may involve an examination of your tongue and pulse, stimulation of your acupuncture points, and an extensive discussion of your health history. Treatment may include acupuncture, herbs, dietary changes, or Chinese bodywork techniques. "We help harmonize the patient's body so she is more able to resist allergies," says Steve Given, L.Ac., licensed acupuncturist and faculty member at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash. Acupuncture may cost $85 to $180 for the first visit and $45 to $105 for follow-ups. You should experience some relief after the first visit, but people with chronic allergies may require three to four visits to notice improvement. To find an acupuncturist in your area, visit the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine website at

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