7 Cheap Treatments for Year-Round Allergies
If you’re like me, your allergies don’t always stop with the changing of the seasons. Well into winter weather, I’m still sniffling and sneezing up a storm. The allergy medication my doctor prescribed to me is only available through my insurance at $60 a month. If you too are unwilling or unable to budget more than $700 a year on allergy medication, read on for frugal solutions to help treat your allergies.
Many name-brand prescription and over-the-counter drugs have generic counterparts. For example, the generic name for Claritin is Loratadine; the generic name for Zyrtec is Cetirizine Hydrochloride (HCI); the generic name for Sudafed is Pseudoephedrine HCI. These names are of the active ingredients contained in name-brand drugs. Generics are often sold under store brands – for example, generic Claritin at Walgreens is called Wal-itin.
To combat the symptoms of my allergies, I make sure I have three types of generic medication on hand: an antihistamine (like Claritin or Zyrtec), a decongestant (like Sudafed), and an instant decongestant spray (something like Affrin). Generally, I take an antihistamine every day to keep my allergic reactions to a minimum. I take decongestants when I find myself getting stuffed up. And I keep the spray on hand for those times when I’m so congested I can’t breathe through my nose at all.
Generics drugs are a cost-effective way to treat allergies when they’re particularly bad, but sometimes taking pills can be hard on my system. Luckily, there are more natural ways to find relief.
A Neti Pot
Neti pots are a tool used in nasal irrigation – running water through your sinuses to clean them out. Unlike getting water up your nose when you swim, using a neti pot doesn’t hurt or sting in any way.
To begin, you mix a saline solution (salt and water) and fill the neti pot with it. You place the spout of the pot in one nostril, bend down and tilt your head to one side. The liquid runs through your sinuses and drips out the other nostril. This is an Ayurvedic technique used commonly in India to clear the sinuses of mucus and allergens and improve breathing. Because it’s a chemical-free process, you can use a neti pot several times a day to find relief from congestion.
I purchased my neti pot from the local health food store, but you can also order them online. My neti pot came with packets of saline powder to mix with water, but the ingredients in the powder are sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium chloride (salt), ingredients you can find at home.
You can watch an instructional video on using the neti pot here.
The neti pot can take some getting used to, but it’s worth it. Used regularly, the neti pot can help prevent congestion or recurring sinusitis.
In the summer months, I go out of my way to eat local honey every day. Though lacking in scientific study, many people believe that eating local honey is a homeopathic way to treat allergies. The idea is that by ingesting honey from the same plants that cause your allergies, your body builds up a tolerance to those particular pollens. This is the same idea used in vaccinations – that a small amount of something can help the body ward off a larger illness.
Disclaimer – honey is not suitable for children under the age of one due to the risk of botulism. Some people may have an allergic reaction to the honey itself. It’s best to start with a small amount of local honey every day and work your way up, if you’re concerned about your reaction. However, if you’re like me and use honey regularly anyway, you might make a conscious effort to have a tablespoon or so of local honey every day, spring through fall. (It’s a delicious routine.) Local honey is generally available at your local health food store or farmer’s market. The bottles will be marked with the location of the apiary where it was made. The closer to you, the better.
Wash Your Pets
If you’ve got both allergies and pets, you probably know enough to keep them out of your bedroom. After all, there’s no good night’s sleep with Fido’s hair all over your pillow. But washing your pets regularly can help keep the dander in their fur down, and dander is what most people are allergic to when they say they’re allergic to animals. People are usually pretty familiar with the idea of washing dogs or sending them to a groomer, but cats can be bathed too. I’m not saying they’ll like it, but with two pairs of hands and a big kitchen sink, you can scrub down the kitties with a gentle shampoo in about ten minutes flat. (If your cats have claws, wear long sleeves and gloves.) Washing your pets regularly can reduce airborne allergens dramatically in your home. And if you’re sick and tired of sneezing, you may even find you don’t mind wrestling the cats into a bath.
General Tso’s Chicken
When you’re so stuffed up you can hardly breathe, eating tends to be a mundane chore. If you can’t breathe, you can’t taste. But if your meal is chock full of chili peppers or horseradish, your sinuses will be clear in no time! Go for Asian cuisines – Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Indonesian all have spicy dishes – or slather a capsaicin-based hot sauce on whatever you’re making for dinner. In a pinch, spicy foods work like a charm. And hey, you gotta eat anyway. Throw on some Tabasco.
Keep a Food Diary
On the other end of the spectrum, some foods can make your allergies worse. By paying close attention to what you’re eating and when, you may notice cause-and-effect relationships between your allergy symptoms and what you’ve recently eaten. For instance, I like to enjoy a latte in the morning, but I swear up and down that after having that much milk, my congestion gets much worse. So when I’m already stuffed up, I have tea instead.
Food allergies and intolerances can present themselves in many ways. You may associate food allergies with throat-swelling or nausea, but if you’re intolerant to a food, it may manifest itself in your asthma or sinusitis.
Clean, Clean, Clean
It’s pretty cheap to vacuum. When you’re stuck indoors in the winter, your familiar surroundings may be the biggest culprit to blame for your allergies. Dust mites, mold and pet dander can keep you sniffling all winter. By ramping up your cleaning efforts, you can effectively cut down your allergic reactions. If you have carpet, vacuum twice a week. Dust everything regularly. Wash bedding weekly, including comforters and pillows. Be aware that humidifiers can house mold. HEPA filters are helpful against animal dander, mold, and pollen (but don’t work against dust mites). HEPA filters are only worthwhile when the windows are closed, or you’ll undo all the benefit of filtering the air. Dust covers on the box spring and mattress can help cut down on dust mites and are available in fabric (not just plastic anymore). With a little extra effort, cold weather and re-circulated air don’t need to result in your suffering.
Allergies can be tricky. Often times, combining tactics and using trial and error can help you find the best way to combat your symptoms. How do you keep your allergies under control year round?
For more information on allergy treatments, check out the following links:
Breathe Easy this Allergy Season (Whole Foods podcast about allergies and homeopathy)
Medications for Allergies (the basics from WebMD)
Allergy Treatment Begins at Home (tips on cleaning from MedicineNet)