Seasonal allergies, also called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, are triggered each spring, summer, and fall when trees, weeds, and grasses release pollen into the air. When the pollen ends up in your nose and throat, it can bring on sneezing, runny nose, coughing, and itchy eyes and throat. People manage seasonal allergies by taking medication, avoiding exposure to the substances that trigger their allergic reactions, or having a series of “allergy shots” (a form of immunotherapy).
People also try various complementary approaches to manage their allergies. If you are considering any complementary health approach for the relief of seasonal allergy symptoms, here are some things you need to know.
- Nasal saline irrigation. There is some good evidence that saline nasal irrigation (putting salt water into one nostril and draining it out the other) can be useful for modest improvement of allergy symptoms. Nasal irrigation is generally safe; however, neti pots and other rinsing devices must be used and cleaned properly. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, tap water that is not filtered, treated, or processed in specific ways is not safe for use as a nasal rinse.
- Butterbur extract. There are hints that the herb butterbur may decrease the symptoms associated with nasal allergies. However, there are concerns about its safety.
- Honey. Only a few studies have looked at the effects of honey on seasonal allergy symptoms, and there is no convincing scientific evidence that honey provides symptom relief. Eating honey is generally safe; however, children under 1 year of age should not eat honey. People who are allergic to pollen or bee stings may also be allergic to honey.
- Acupuncture. A 2015 evaluation of 13 studies of acupuncture for allergic rhinitis, involving a total of 2,365 participants, found evidence that this approach may be helpful.
- Probiotics. There is some evidence that suggests that probiotics may improve some symptoms, as well as quality of life, in people with allergic rhinitis, but because probiotic formulations vary from study to study, it's difficult to make firm conclusions about its effectiveness.
- Talk to your health care provider. If you suffer from seasonal allergies and are considering a complementary health approach, talk to your health care provider about the best ways to manage your symptoms. You may find that when the pollen count is high, staying indoors, wearing a mask, or rinsing off when you come inside can help.