This article about rhinitis is a paid blog post in partnership with uk.klarify.me.
Anyone else always looking for natural ways to get rid of hay fever? Oh the watery eyes, sneezing, itching and general foggy headedness that come with it… If you’re trying to prevent allergic rhinitis naturally, look no further. Read on for my story and for a range of tried and tested naturals ways to relieve the symptoms of hay fever and allergies to dust, moulds and animal hair.
You think: spring, nature, colourful flowers, trees in bloom, beautiful green spaces…
I think: hay fever season, swollen eyes, uncontrollable sneezing, itchy skin and inflamed nose!
The worst thing about hay fever is it always coincides with the weather perking up. You’re keen to spend more time outdoors, right? What do you end up doing? Yep, locking yourself in the house with all windows closed to try and ease the symptoms.
Allergic Rhinitis? What’s that?
Until just a few years ago, I didn’t even know what allergic rhinitis was. Sure, I’d been a watery-eyed baby, the kind of child who’d constantly sneeze and have a runny nose in the middle of summer. I was also prone to catching sinusitis, tonsillitis and I’d regularly get the most dreadful ear infections.
As a teenager, I would always have saline water in my school bag just in case I’d get ‘gritty eyes’ again. I never thought this could be linked to a condition and didn’t ever mention it to my doctor. The symptoms were mild and didn’t bother me that much.
At the start of my 30s, I had three girl pregnancies and oh my word were these pregnancies spent waddling fraught with terror at the thought of a sneeze! Ever sneezed when heavily pregnant? Terrifying isn’t a strong enough adjective to describe the feeling you get when you feel the irritant land on your nasal mucosa…
Then the wretched sneeze starts to build up. You know it’s coming. As air gets convulsively driven out from you lungs through your mouth and nose, you get the dreaded sensation your insides, baby and all, are being tied with a knot and won’t ever untangle properly again. Unpleasant…
The contrast between the healthy glow during my first (boy) pregnancy and my three girl pregnancies was startling, really. When I was expecting my girls, as well as the to-be-expected morning (all day!) sickness, back pain (hello sciatica!) and waddling, I experienced pregnancy rhinitis without knowing what it was or getting a formal diagnosis. My GP just thought I was getting sinusitis again and again (and again).
My sinuses were so swollen that I had to have an emergency dentist appointment once as it felt like one of my back teeth was so badly infected it needed taking out. Turned out to be my sinuses pushing against the root of one of my molars.
I later found out that pregnancy could make seasonal allergies worse, and a condition called rhinitis of pregnancy could cause symptoms akin to seasonal allergies. Even though those symptoms are very similar to rhinitis, they are caused by hormones (usually in the third trimester) rather than allergens and usually disappear soon after giving birth.
Time to Talk to a GP about Allergic Rhinitis
It’s sometimes hard to know when to talk to your doctor and when to just go for over-the-counter remedies, isn’t it? After a while, I self-diagnosed hay fever. I spent a few years trying all the brands of antihistamines I could just buy in Boots. Some would make no difference to my symptoms whatsoever. Others would make me feel so drowsy I almost fell asleep in the middle of lessons on a few occasions (I was the teacher!). Don’t get me started on drowsy drives home…
The symptoms of was hay fever were preventing me from functioning properly and carrying out every day activities like I used to. I barely slept and kept getting migraines from all the sniffing and nose-blowing. It was time to ask my GP for some help. After trying various brands of antihistamines, I was referred to a reputable allergy clinic in Cambridge. In the meantime, I was advised to keep a symptom diary.
What Happens at the Allergy Clinic?
My appointment at the allergy clinic was very similar to those my daughter has been attending regularly since she was diagnosed with food allergies as a baby. I’d been told not to have any antihistamines for three days prior to my appointment and soon as I arrived at the allergy clinic, a nurse took note of my height and weight.
I then had skin prick tests and some of the allergens caused an almost immediate reaction on my skin. Blood samples were taken and the final piece of the puzzle was meeting an allergist. The allergy specialist was extremely thorough in his questioning, and he pointed out the line across the bridge of my nose as soon as I walked in.
I had never noticed it before, but according to him, the crease was a sign of chronic rhinitis. He then went on to explain that people who get the indented line across the bridge of their noses have that crease because they regularly rub their noses in an upwards motion with their hands. I had a lightbulb moment when he said that: until then, I’d always assumed my doing that all the time was a mannerism. I’d never even spotted the ‘allergic salute’ (the line across my nose) he was referring to. Two of my girls have it too so I’m guessing one day they might also be plagued with allergic rhinitis.
The doctor then compiled a detailed family medical history and asked me about my own medical history as well as a list of all the antihistamines I’d tried before. He also wanted to know whether there were times when the symptoms seemed more manageable (whenever I go to the Alps personally) or worse (mid-February to September in my case). He also wanted to know what my symptoms were and whether I had asthma.
Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis
Here are the symptoms I experience:
Eyes: watering uncontrollably, swelling, itchy, gritty, allergic conjunctivitis, puffy all round
Nose: runny, itchy, nasal congestion, inflamed nasal lining, struggling to breathe at night, sinusitis-like symptoms
Throat: sore, itchy, dry, cough, sneezing
Skin: itchy all over (unless covered)
So what is Allergic Rhinitis, exactly?
According to the NHS website, “Allergic rhinitis is caused by the immune system reacting to an allergen as if it were harmful. This results in cells releasing a number of chemicals that cause the inside layer of your nose (the mucous membrane) to become swollen and too much mucus to be produced. Common allergens that cause allergic rhinitis include pollen (this type of allergic rhinitis is known as hay fever), as well as mould spores, house dust mites, and flakes of skin or droplets of urine or saliva from certain animals.”
Seasonal allergic rhinitis is a very common condition that affects approximately one in five people in the UK. The symptoms of allergic rhinitis aren’t dissimilar to those of a cold: sneezing, itchiness and a blocked or runny nose.
Treatment for Allergic Rhinitis
My allergies are not life-threatening, but allergic reactions are uncomfortable. They can be debilitating on days when the pollen count is through the roof. I have a treatment to prevent allergic rhinitis symptoms and help me function normally. I am on a high dose of antihistamines all year round (Fenofexadine) and I also use a nasal spray during hay fever season. Even though my treatment is pretty effective most of the time, I always find that it is not quite enough to completely eradicate the symptoms of rhinitis if I don’t take extra precautions, so here are extra things I have found make a difference…
How to Treat and Prevent Allergic Rhinitis Naturally
Here is a list of ways to relieve allergic rhinitis symptoms. I hope these natural tips and tricks will help you as much as they’ve helped me.
Avoid your allergy triggers
Sounds like common sense, but if there are allergy triggers you can avoid, it should be the first thing you do.
Humidity in your home is your enemy
Keep humidity as low as you can indoors as moisture helps mould grow and dust mites thrive when the air is humid.
Although there is no scientific evidence to support this, many people swear that a teaspoon of local honey every day can help you become less sensitive to pollen and as a result you could experience fewer symptoms of seasonal rhinitis.
Nasal sprays can definitely help. Use a saline nasal spray like Stérimar* to try and clear your nasal passages before bed.
Saline eye wash
Use physiological serum (saline water) as an eye wash. Keep a few of the individual doses in the fridge for extra relief. I always buy mine in France but you can find the same ones on Amazon* too.
Prevent pollen from getting into your nose
A dab of Vaseline or Haymax* at the entrance of your nostrils can help trap pollen, house dust mites or animal dander.
This is by far the easiest and one of the most effective ways to prevent allergic rhinitis symptoms for me. When out, wear sunglasses: the bigger, the better as wraparound sunglasses will act as a shield to prevent pollen from going into your eyes. I have been wearing these Ray-Ban sunglasses all year round for years.
Wash off the pollen
Shower after spending time outdoors to remove all pollen from your hair and skin.
Air or no air?
If you really suffer from rhinitis at night, avoid opening windows at night, even when it’s really hot.
Use a good decongestant
I have been doing this for years to prevent allergic rhinitis symptoms from disrupting my sleep. As you’re going to bed, boil your kettle and fill a 2L Pyrex bowl* with the boiling water. Add in a few drops of Olbas oil*. You should start feeling the congestion clearing after 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure you place the bowl out of little hands’ reach.
Cool as a cucumber
Cucumber slices on your eyelids can help reduce swelling of the eyes and soothe them if they’re puffy. Simply take the cucumber out of the fridge and wash it before cutting a couple of slices off. Place them on your eyelids until they no longer give you a cooling sensation.
Dairy or no dairy?
When your rhinitis symptoms are starting to make you uncomfortable, think about reducing your intake of dairy products as they tend to increase the production of mucus.
During hay fever season, take vitamin C supplements* every day to support your immune system. The antioxidant decreases your body’s histamine production and therefore slows down the way your body overreacts to environmental triggers.
No clothes on the line!
Dry all clothes and bedding indoors. Pollen can stick to clothes hanging in the fresh air to dry. If you can, use a tumble dryer, even if it is a 5-minute tumble once your clothes are dry.
Bye bye flowers
Avoid having fresh flowers in your home if you are allergic to pollen.
Even if you are not allergic to your pets, remember that they can bring pollen into the house. After each outing, brush them outside, before they come into the house. You might also want to wear a face mask when you’re grooming them.
Grass is a tough one to avoid. It’s best to keep the lawn short. Try to get someone to do the mowing for you if grass triggers a reaction.
To vacuum or not to vacuum?
Vacuum your house as often as you can and try to get someone to empty your vacuum cleaner for you. The more you vacuum during allergy season the better.
Hire a cleaner
If you have dust allergies and can afford a cleaner who comes when you’re not around, this could dramatically reduce your symptoms at home.
When I was working full time and had a cleaner who came round when I was at work and used natural products that didn’t trigger my allergies, I rarely sneezed or ended up with puffy eyes in the house as long as I didn’t open windows. Best way to prevent allergic rhinitis symptoms in the house!
How about dusting?
You can still do some dusting, but do it using a slightly damp microfibre cloth.
An air purifier in your bedroom could improve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. An air purifier usually consists of a filter and a fan that sucks in and circulates air. When air moves through the filter, particles that trigger allergies are captured and the clean air is pushed back out.
As the air purifier reduces the concentration of pollen, smoke and house dust mites in the air, symptoms generally improve. I found that having an air purifier in my bedroom made a big difference at night. The only downside of an air purifier is that you’ve got to think about maintenance and filters have to be replaced regularly to keep being efficient. They’re also pretty bulky.
Reflexology could also help ease the symptoms of rhinitis. By working on areas that link to the head, sinuses, eyes and by stimulating the adrenal glands, inflammation caused by rhinitis can be reduced. You’ll therefore breathe more easily and it will help get rid of any lingering headache you might get from having a stuffy nose.
Just bear in mind that with reflexology, things get worse before they get better so don’t give up after a couple of sessions. I also found that to be effective, it was best to start with a session a week for four weeks and then have one session a month for five or six months.
Sinus flush or nasal irrigation
Nasal irrigation is something my allergist recommended as the most effective way to clear sinuses. It’s a very simple method to flush out your nasal passages with salt water.
Here is how to do a sinus flush: Fill a squeeze bottle (I use this one*) with warm saline solution. Place your head over the sink and tilt your head to one side. Breathing through your mouth, slowly squeeze the saline solution into your upper nostril. The solution with pour out of the other nostril. Repeat on the other side. Gently blow your nose.
Acupressure Arm Band
I’ve been using the Qu-Chi Hayfever Band* since a friend recommended it a couple of years ago. The Acupressure Arm Band was developed by a leading UK acupuncturist to apply pressure to the large intestine 11 (LI-11) acupoint on the elbow, known in Chinese as Quchi. Acupuncturists believe stimulation of this point pulls energy away from the head, nose, face and throat. The Qu-Chi Acupressure band was created to balance and harmonise the body’s energy or Chi, and help promote a feeling of well-being.
Kleenex Allergy Waterfresh Tissues* are great when you’re out and about. I always have a pack in my handbag.
Acupuncture isn’t something I have tried but I have heard of people using the traditional Chinese medicine as a way to relieve hay fever symptoms. The beauty of alternative therapies like acupuncture is they have no side effects and tend to have long term benefits.
Move to a hay fever free zone!
OK, moving to a hay fever free zone is definitely a drastic solution… If you’re not considering relocating to escape rhinitis, maybe you could start planning holiday destinations to avoid places where it’s likely to flare up more. According to an old BBC news article, “hay fever free zones” include Finland, Thailand, Trinidad, the Seychelles, Stockholm and anywhere in the French Alps. I am definitely up for the French Alps!
Have you got any other tips or natural ways to prevent allergic rhinitis or relieve hay fever symptoms?
Disclosure: This blog post is part of a paid partnership with uk.klarify.me, who sell easy to use home-to-lab allergy tests. All copy and photos are my own. Please remember that I am not a medical professional. Consult your doctor if you are struggling to control the symptoms of rhinitis.
* This blog post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on a link and go on to buy some of the items I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!