All the ways you can control your allergies, from air filters to saltwater rinses
- The first step to getting rid of
allergiesis to get tested for what you are actually allergic to.
- If you're allergic to common allergens like dust mites, make adjustments to your home, like purchasing dust mite covers for your bed or get an air filter.
- To get rid of
allergysymptoms, you can use a nasal saltwater rinse to clear out any irritants, or take antihistamines to relieve other symptoms like itchy eyes and congestion.
- This article was medically reviewed by Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, otolaryngologist and laryngologist at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute's Pacific Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center at Providence Saint John's
HealthCenter in Santa Monica, CA.
- Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.
Over 50 million people in the US experience allergies each year, suffering symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, and trouble sleeping.
When you have allergies, your immune system treats harmless particles, like dust, as if they were dangerous invaders, which triggers symptoms like coughing or a runny nose.
Though allergies can be distressing and interrupt your daily life, there are many treatments that can help. Here are a few scientifically proven methods for getting rid of allergies.
The first step to controlling your allergies is to find out exactly what you are allergic to so that you know what to avoid. You can get an allergy test at the doctor in the form of a blood test or a skin test.
During a skin test, a doctor or nurse will prick you with a number of different allergens and see if any pricks cause swelling or redness. Skin tests usually cost less and provide quicker results than blood tests. However, if you're on allergy medications like Zyrtec or Singulair or certain blood pressure medicines, this may interfere with the results, so discuss your medication with a doctor before receiving this test.
Blood tests involve a single needle prick. However, false positives — where results indicate you're allergic when you're not — are common for this type of test. Moreover, both skin and blood allergy tests may indicate what you're allergic to, but they won't tell you how strongly you react. But still, it's important to know your triggers. You can then judge the severity yourself.
Allergen-proofing your home
One important way to cut down allergies is to keep common allergens like dust mites out of your living space. Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in household dust and are one of the most common allergies worldwide.
The carpets and curtains in your house can easily collect dust, so leaving floors and windows bare may help reduce your exposure, says Ahmad Sedaghat, MD, a physician at University of Cincinnati Health who specializes in diseases of the nose and sinuses.
If you want to keep rugs and curtains, you can get curtains made of washable, cotton material. Rugs should be washed every week, while curtains should be washed monthly. You should also use only low-pile rugs, which are rugs less than ¼ inch thick.
You can also get dust mite covers to protect your bed and pillows. When you sleep, you shed skin onto your bedding, which is a tasty meal for dust mites. Using covers prevents you skin cells from reaching any mites that may be hunkering down inside your mattress and pillow. However, dust mites can still build up on the outside of your pillows and sheets, so you need to wash them regularly in water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some researchers say that there is not yet enough evidence to recommend dust mite covers as a treatment, but other studies have found that covers significantly reduce dust mites in bedding.
Clear the air
For seasonal allergies, where the main issue is pollen from outside plants, one simple remedy is to keep your windows closed at all times.
For indoor allergies like dust mites and mold, it is important to keep the humidity level low, as dust mites and mold cannot thrive in dry air. Using a dehumidifier can help keep your environment allergen-free.
Another way to clear the air in your home is to use a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. This type of filter is slightly more expensive than your run-of-the-mill dehumidifier. However, it catches smaller particles than a traditional filter and can remove 99.97 percent of dust, mold, pollen, and bacteria, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
You can use a saltwater rinses to flush out your sinuses of any allergens, and thereby reduce allergy symptoms that way.
To use a saltwater rinse, follow these steps:
- Mix 3 teaspoons of non-iodized salt with 1 teaspoon of baking soda – you will use 1 teaspoon of this mixture and you can store the rest for later.
- Combine 1 teaspoon of this powder with 1 cup of lukewarm water that has been boiled.
- Using a rubber bulb syringe, draw all of the saltwater up into the bulb and stand over a sink or bathtub.
- Tilt your head forward, then over to one side, so one of your nostrils is above the other.
- Squeeze about half of the saltwater out of the bulb and into your top nostril. Keep breathing through your mouth and the water should start running out of your bottom nostril. If the mixture goes down your throat, you may need to adjust your head position.
- Tilt your head to the opposite side and repeat this process on your other nostril.
- Gently blow your nose to get rid of any leftover solution.
Though most of the research on saline rinsing has been small, preliminary studies, there is evidence that it can improve allergy symptoms with no harmful side effects.
Antihistamines are the most common medications for treating allergies and can come as a pill, liquid, or nasal spray.
There are two main types of antihistamines, Sedaghat says -- medications like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) that can cause drowsiness and non-drowsy medications like Zyrtec (cetirizine).
Though both types of medications help with allergy symptoms, non-drowsy medications are better at treating congestion in your nose and sinuses, as they often contain decongestants like pseudoephedrine.
Intranasal steroid sprays
"Steroids are very broad and effective anti-inflammatory medications," says Sedaghat. Over the counter nasal steroid sprays like Flonase or Nasacort work by releasing steroids into the nasal passage, where they stop inflammatory cells and proteins from being released. This helps prevent inflammatory symptoms like congestion and runny nose from developing.
For people with severe allergy symptoms, steroids can be more effective than antihistamines, because steroids target many inflammatory chemicals rather than just histamine, Sedaghat says.
Steroids, however, can cause side effects like nosebleeds and slowed growth in children, so this treatment should always be monitored by a medical provider.
Allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, are a more permanent solution to allergies, but can take years to have a full effect.
"Immunotherapy works by literally changing the immune system so that it doesn't cause an allergic reaction when exposed to an allergen," Sedaghat says.
Immunotherapy starts with weekly shots that expose you to small amounts of an allergen starting from a low dose and gradually building up. After 3 to 6 months, once you have reached the full dose, you will move to monthly shots and continue the process for 3 to 5 years.
Over the time, "the immune system 'gets used to' the allergen and stops reacting 'allergically'," Sedaghat says. Allergy shots have been shown to significantly reduce symptoms in at least 70 percent of patients who get the treatment.
There are many effective treatments available for both seasonal and year-round allergies. Depending on your symptoms, you may find that some are more helpful than others. Any treatment you choose should be discussed with your doctor to make sure it's the best option for you.
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