The Top 6 Natural Remedies for Allergies in the Fall Season
When the seasons make their transition from summer to fall, you may experience the irritating onset of sneezing, sniffling, and watery eyes year after year — but it doesn’t have to be this way. Although fall allergies are widespread due to the uptick in pollen in the air, there are several natural remedies for allergies to help you cope with these bothersome symptoms.
In this article, discover the most common allergens this time of year and the top six medication-free ways you can reduce your risk of sneezing through the fall season.
Fall Allergy Symptoms
Seasonal allergies — also known as allergic rhinitis — are caused by the body overreacting to something in the environment, creating an inflammatory immune response that manifests as allergic symptoms. If you’re affected by fall allergies, you may experience just one, several, or all of these characteristics:
- Stuffy, runny, or congested nose
- Itchy eyes, nose, and throat
- Itchy, watery, or puffy eyes
- Rashes or hives
- Postnasal drip
Top 4 Fall Allergens
Pollen, the most common seasonal allergy trigger, is a yellow powder spread by the wind, insects, and birds to fertilize plants. When airborne, pollen can be easily inhaled and cause allergic symptoms. While hundreds of plants produce this powder, the most common plants that cause fall allergies from their pollen are grasses, weeds, and some trees, including birch, cedar, and oak.
Ragweed is a weed that commonly grows in the Eastern and Midwestern areas of the United States, with over 23 million Americans being affected by allergies to its pollen. Seventy-five percent of people who are allergic to pollen are also allergic to ragweed.
Ragweed allergies are more common in the late summer and fall, with the peak occurring mid-September and ending when the first frost of the year kills the ragweed plant. Allergic symptoms to ragweed happen when the plants release pollen into the air; each plant can produce up to 1 billion pollen grains.
3. Mold and Mildew
Although allergic reactions to mold and mildew can occur year-round, they are more common in the late summer and early fall. Mold and mildew are fungi that produce spores, which then travel through the air. These allergies are seen more often in the fall because mold and mildew thrive in dampness but are dormant with frost. Therefore, the spores commonly grow on fallen leaves, rotting trees, or damp compost piles.
4. Dust Mites
Also a year-round allergen, dust mite allergies become more pronounced in the fall. These microscopic arthropods are often found in the home, especially in air vents, bedding, and carpeting. Many people suffer from their allergens when they first turn on their home’s heaters for the season, as the dust mites release from the air vents. As dust mites cannot live in humidity below 50%, a dehumidifier can help to keep them away. Also, cleaning all air vents often and washing sheets, pillows, and blankets in hot water when the seasons turn from summer to fall can help.
6 Natural Remedies for Allergies
Quercetin is an antioxidant that is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including onions, apples, and broccoli, as well as in supplemental form.
In addition to its antioxidant properties, quercetin functions as an anti-allergic by inhibiting histamine, a compound that plays a primary role in allergic reactions. Quercetin also downregulates inflammatory cells and cytokines, which can relieve some of the pain or pressure associated with allergies.
Although you can get quercetin from foods, supplements can help during seasons of high allergy potential. A daily supplement should contain between 500 to 1,000 mg of quercetin.
2. Use a Nasal Rinse
A neti pot or saline irrigator can relieve nasal congestion and allow for easier breathing. These systems stream saltwater into your nasal cavities through one nostril and out the other. Although it can be an uncomfortable task, many people find that nasal irrigation alleviates pain and discomfort after completion. To safely use a neti pot, ensure that your water is sterile by boiling it first.
Perhaps surprisingly, the health of your gastrointestinal tract can affect whether or not you get seasonal allergies. The microbiome, which is the community of bacteria living in our large intestines, plays a crucial role in how the immune system functions.
Certain gut bacteria, including Lactobacillus, suppress inflammatory and allergic responses by upregulating T regulatory cells’ action and inhibiting T-helper 2 cells (Th2). People with overactive Th2 reactions are significantly more likely to have allergies.
Probiotics can also stimulate local immunoglobulin-A (IgA) production, an antibody that serves as the first line of defense in the gut by trapping foreign pathogens in its mucus.
In a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May 2014, people with allergic rhinitis to grass pollen were randomized to receive the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei or a placebo. After five weeks, those taking the daily probiotic had significant decreases in the Rhinitis Quality of Life global score, a subjective measure of allergy symptoms.
Look for a high-quality probiotic supplement that contains at least 1 billion CFU (colony-forming units) of bacteria per capsule or consume probiotic-rich foods daily, including fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir.
4. Herbal Remedies
Several herbal remedies or supplements have shown promise for relieving allergies, including butterbur, stinging nettle, garlic, and bromelain, an anti-inflammatory compound found in pineapple.
Butterbur, extracted from marsh plants, was found to reduce allergic symptoms comparably to an over-the-counter antihistamine in a randomized controlled trial published in BMJ in January 2002.
Some essential oils may reduce allergic symptoms when used as aromatherapy. Diffusing peppermint or tea tree oil into the air or creating a facial steam bath have both been found anecdotally to relieve nasal and sinus congestion. To make a facial steam bath, pour hot water into a large bowl, add between five and ten drops of essential oil into the bowl, place your face in front of it, and breathe. For extra benefits, place a towel over your head to trap in the steam.
As over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines can often induce a sedative effect, these herbal remedies may be a beneficial option to use instead.
5. Manage Stress
Recent research has found that mental or emotional stress can also increase the prevalence or severity of allergies due to the relationship between the immune system and the central nervous system.
Stress activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which sets off a cascade of reactions that end with an overactivation of Th2 cells, thereby increasing the inflammatory and allergic response.
Manage stress with meditation, mindfulness, yoga, deep breathing, regular exercise, and good quality sleep.
6. Keep Your Home Clean
In addition to keeping your home’s surfaces clean, be sure to wash pillows, pillowcases, and bedding weekly in hot water over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. If your allergies are severe, try covering your mattress and pillows in dust-proof covers, also known as allergen-impermeable covers.
As mentioned, cleaning air vents and filters can keep allergens from becoming airborne in your home. Lastly, HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters and dehumidifiers can reduce the allergen load and keep mold and mildew out of the house.
- The top fall allergies stem from pollen, ragweed, mold and mildew, and dust mites.
- Natural remedies for allergies include taking supplemental quercetin, probiotics, butterbur, stinging nettle, garlic, and bromelain, and using peppermint or tea tree oil as aromatherapy.
- Lifestyle strategies for coping with fall allergies include using a neti pot or nasal rinse, managing stress, and keeping your home clean.
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Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response. Molecules. 2016;21(5):623. Published 2016 May 12. doi:10.3390/molecules21050623
Schapowal A; Petasites Study Group. Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis. BMJ. 2002;324(7330):144-146. doi:10.1136/bmj.324.7330.144