8 top ways to care for your allergies without damaging the budget


I've had allergies for as long as I can remember. Which probably means that I've had them for longer than I can remember, since allergies aren't usually something that become possible with the advent of memory. I have spent more days sniffly, snorty, with a scratchy throat and sinuses that feel like they're about to explode than many entire families. I've ended up with more ear infections, sinus infections, and cases of bronchitis than I care to recount. In fact, I take so much decongestant that my husband decided that my mutant power is Producing Snot.

And I've tried everything, from standard medicine to acupuncture to herbal remedies to homeopathy to staying in the house and shutting all the windows. The following are some things that work for me and won't cost you an arm and a leg. In this, the beginning of allergy season (well, for most of you...here in SoCal it's more like "The Middle of the Allergy Season that Never Ends"), I offer these suggestions in hopes that they also work for you.

  • Alternate decongestants. Now that many companies are not selling deocongestant products containing pseudoephedrine due to the fact that it can be used to make meth, the new decongestant of choice is phenylephrine. The first works by actually thinning mucus while the second helps make nasal passages wider. Allergies can cause both symptoms, and so your nose, throat, and sinuses will feel better if you treat them both. Since you aren't supposed to take them together, alternate doseages.
    • Bonus tip! Cut 12-hour pills in half. Most pills containing pseudoephedrine are now the 12-hour kind (Is it harder to make meth from these? I don't know.) Sometimes, they actually work for 12 hours. But if they don't for you (like they don't for me--they work for about 8 hours and then I'm miserable for 4 until I can take more meds again), cut them in half and take them at 6-hour intervals.
  • Buy decongestants at bulk stores. I buy mine at Costco. I don't notice a difference in quality, even when I buy Costco brand, and I pay much less than I would at the grocery store, pharmacy, or even Wal-Mart. I can get both day-time and night-time pills that will last me between 3 and 6 months (depending on the season) for less than I would get 24 nighttime pills at some stores.
  • Take lots of showers. I love a good, hot shower, and I've found that timing them well can mean not having to take decongestant. For instance, if I take a hot shower about an hour before bed, the steam loosens the crap in my sinuses and it has time to drain out before I go to bed. Then, I don't have to take the nighttime medicine, which can give some of the...um...strangest dreams I've ever had.
  • Drink mint tea. Apparently, this won't work if you have GERD. But if you don't, and you don't hate tea, this is a good way to open up your air passages. I will often drink it when I really need some more decongestant but can't take it because it hasn't been long enough since my last dose or I don't have any on me. It doesn't work for long, but it has gotten me through some hard times. Plus, it tastes good, gives me good breath, and is relaxing.
  • Use a saline nasal spray. My sinuses hurt the worst when they're dry. The saline helps keep them moist, which helps the mucus move through them faster. Once you have a sprayer, you can make your own spray. Otherwise, store brands are cheap and work well.
    • Bonus tip! Don't irrigate your sinuses. Sprays are fine, but shooting salted (or vinagred-yikes!) water through sore, dry sinuses just makes them more sore and more dry after the water dries up. Not to mention, it hurts like the dickens when you do it! They get moist for a short time, but are more irritated in the end. And when they're full, the water doesn't losen the mucus much, just makes it a little runnier and more likely to lodge in your ears. I don't know why, but it happens to me every time. I've had the same thing happen when I try to use the steroidal allergy nasal sprays, though.
  • Try homeopathic remedies. These are controversial and rightly so, as my experience is that many of them don't work. However, some of them do. And some of them work sometimes, with certain symptoms, and not others. These are usually a pill that dissolves under the tongue or a liquid that you dissolve in water. My recommendation is to go with the pills, as they often taste much better than the liquid. You may have to try several brands to find one that works, but it's worth it if keeping chemicals out of your body is important to you. They're not as strong as traditional decongestants so don't always work, but have saved my days more than once.
  • Drink lots of water. Sounds cheesy, but it's true. The more you drink, the looser your mucus will be as there's more water in your body for it to mix with. In addition, if you drink a lot of water your sinuses will be more likely to be moist, which means they'll function better.
  • Walk up stairs. Repeat. There's something about the position your body is in when you're walking up stairs that is conducive to draining sinuses and nasal passages (body slightly tilted forward, head up). I'll do this in the middle of the night when I wake up because I can't breathe and it's too close to time to get up for me to take more medicine. It has never failed to drain my sinuses and help me get back to sleep.

I hope these help any of you who are allergy sufferers. If you have any tips for me, I'd love to hear them. *sniff*


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Will Chen's picture

Hmmm... this one is so interesting.  I think I'm going to try it right now!

Sarah Winfrey's picture

But it totally works...at least for me.


I discovered it one night when I was really sick.  I was up in the middle of the night just trying to breathe.  I finally gave up and went back upstairs.  When I got to the top, I could breathe.

I tried it again the next time I was sick...and it worked again. 

Guest's picture

Eat a spoonful of local honey every day to get your body used to local pollens. The honey doesn't have to be straight--it goes great on a piece of toast.

Guest's picture

I found having a warm drink after I get up really helps. I have never liked coffee or tea so it was never a habit of mine to have warm drinks. (I tend to drink my caffeine cold as in soda.) Well after a pharmacist recommended a hot drink to help with congestion, I tried hot cocoa. It really helped. While it could be only in my mind, it seems to help more earlier in the day than in the evening.