9 home allergy remedies to try -- and 1 to avoid

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5 Home Remedies for Allergies That Actually Work

When allergy season kicks into high gear, the great outdoors becomes a source of misery for anyone reacting to pollen and other commonplace allergens. If you suffer from seasonal allergies but don't know exactly what causes them, the first step is to visit a reputable allergist and get tested to determine exactly what your allergic triggers are. Although severe allergies require a doctor's care, these simple home remedies and treatments can often alleviate symptoms of mild allergies that mimic a common cold.

Add some steam.
Humidity is an excellent natural decongestant. Even when the outdoor climate is humid and sultry, air-conditioned interiors can be very dry. If the entire family is suffering from clogged nasal passages, then using a home (or room) humidifier is a good idea. However, if you're the only member of the household having a problem, the easiest way to humidify your nasal passages is to boil a pot of water and inhale the steam. Take care not to get close enough to scald your face.

Dry things out.
Although some allergies are exacerbated by overly dry air, other allergies (particularly mold allergies) have the opposite problem: too much humidity makes them worse. If mold and mildew cause allergic reactions, using a dehumidifier or air conditioner can keep that problem in check.

Take a shower.
Even when you look and feel perfectly clean, it's possible that pollen grains and other microscopic allergens are clinging to your hair and skin. Taking a shower will wash away allergens and offer the benefits of steam therapy, as well. However, showering too frequently can result in dry skin, so after toweling off, don't forget to apply some hypoallergenic moisturizer.

Have some tea.
A hot cup of tea not only provides steam to clear out your nasal passages; the tea itself can prove beneficial. Many allergy sufferers swear by the benefits of peppermint tea as a dual decongestant and expectorant. However, if you try "tea therapy," make sure the tea itself won't exacerbate the problem. If you suffer from ragweed allergies, for example, the ingredients in chamomile tea can trigger an allergic reaction.

Use a saline wash.
Almost every drugstore sells saline nasal spray for moisturizing and cleaning out nasal passages and loosening thick mucus buildup. It's cheaper to make saline solution at home, provided you strictly adhere to certain safety measures. Never make a nasal saline solution out of water straight from the tap. The Food and Drug Administration recommends buying bottled water labeled "distilled" or "sterile," or boiling tap water for at least three to five minutes, then cooling it down to lukewarm. The FDA's third option is to use a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller to remove potentially infectious organisms from the water.

Try a neti pot.
Neti pots work similar to saline sprays: A gentle rinse of salty water can clear out nasal passages and break through mucus buildups. But neti pots require the same safety precautions as homemade saline sprays: namely, the water must be completely sterile, because microorganisms that are safe to drink (stomach acids kill them) can still be dangerous to put into nasal passages. According to the FDA, improper use of neti pots might have caused two deaths in Louisiana in 2011, after the pots were filled with tap water containing a rare brain-eating amoeba.

Change your clothes.
If "outside" allergies such as pollen trouble you even inside with the doors and windows shut, the culprit might be allergens hitching a ride on your clothes. Get into the habit of changing into fresh clothing as soon as you enter the house -- and keep those "outdoor" clothes segregated from "indoor" apparel.

Get a HEPA filter.
High-efficiency particulate air filters can help relieve allergy symptoms by removing pollen grains, animal dander, mold spores, and other potential allergens from the air. Many homes with modern heating and cooling systems already include HEPA filters, but if yours doesn't, then a room-size HEPA air cleaner is the next best thing. HEPA filters need replacement every six months to every two years, depending on which brand of filter is used and how "dirty" the local air is.

Spice up your diet.
Anyone with a fondness for spicy foods is familiar with their eye-watering, nose-running effects. If you're suffering only mild nasal congestion, a nice spicy meal might clear things out -- and if not, at least you got to enjoy the flavor.

Check out some yummy spicy foods in the gallery below:
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Spicy foods
See Gallery
9 home allergy remedies to try -- and 1 to avoid
This June 22, 2015 photo shows spicy oyster jeotgal with pork sausage in Concord, N.H. This dish is from a recipe by Edward Lee. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This June 8, 2015 photo shows grilled vegetables with tahini sauce and spicy panko in Concord, N.H. This dish is from a recipe by Sara Moulton. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This April 6, 2015 photo shows roasted carrots with port raisins and spicy peanut herb sauce in Concord, N.H. The sauce can be prepped up to a day in advance, but don't add the peanuts until just before serving. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This Jan. 5, 2015, photo shows sweet-and-spicy panko-crusted chicken in Concord, N.H. While the breaded cutlets can be pan-fried, you can also use the ease of the oven. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This July 28, 2014 photo shows spicy peanut chicken satay in Concord, N.H. The chicken satay is an easy, weeknight-friendly chicken dinner that is a bit of a cultural mash-up. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This May 5, 2014, photo shows sweet potato, grilled corn and black bean salad with spicy cilantro dressing in Concord, N.H. This recipe swaps sweet potatoes for the more traditional white potatoes and loses the standard recipe’s abundant mayonnaise in favor of a dressing high in flavor and low in fat. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This Jan. 6, 2014 photo shows hot and spicy artichoke spinach dip in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013, file photo, Sriracha chili sauce bottles are produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif. A judge has given a dose of cold water to the hot sauce Sriracha, ruling Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, that the factory that manufactures the trendy condiment must partially shut down after neighbors complained of the spicy smells it was producing. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)
This Oct. 28, 2013 photo shows green beans with a sweet and spicy coconut topping in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
In this image taken on May 13, 2013, summer rolls with spicy peanut dipping sauce are shown served on a plate in Concord, NH. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
In this image taken on Jan. 9, 2012, Hoisin Turkey Meatball Grinders with spicy tomato relish are shown in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Don't eat local honey.
One popular home allergy remedy might be more harmful than helpful: eating raw local honey. This recommendation is based on the principle of immunotherapy -- that exposure to small amounts of an allergen "teaches" your immune system how to properly handle it. If you're allergic to pollen, the theory goes, then eating honey made from local pollen can help beat the allergy.

But there are two problems with this theory. First, while immunotherapy has shown some effectiveness in reducing allergic sensitivities, the patients with verifiable success stories were under strictly controlled medical supervision. In other words, immunotherapy isn't something to experiment with at home. Secondly, there's no way of knowing which types of pollen and other potential allergens are contained in local honey. Honey may be a tasty sugar substitute, but it's unlikely to relieve allergy symptoms.

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