If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know we are quick to debunk myths that pop up promising relief from symptoms or even cures for asthma and allergies.
We also know that allergy symptoms can be relentlessly unpleasant, and sometimes you would do just about anything to get a reprieve, even if it’s temporary!
To that end, we’re very happy to point you in the direction of strategies that may offer symptom relief naturally and are known to be effective - or at least highly unlikely to be harmful.
We do suggest, however, (in much the same way that a skydiving instructor will suggest you pull the cord of your parachute when they say so…) that you try out the following approaches in conjunction with the treatments and medications prescribed or recommended by your doctor, specialist or pharmacist.
They should never be used as a replacement.
- Shower, or at least wash your face and hands thoroughly, as soon as you can after you’ve been in contact with one of your allergens, such as being outside in pollen season or visiting friends with pets.
- Use a cold compress.
When allergy symptoms such as itching and irritation threaten to ruin your day, try applying a cold washcloth to your face for a few minutes for some temporary relief. It’s very soothing, so even when you don’t have allergies, it’s a quick and easy way to relax!
- Keep your windows closed. This will help prevent pollen, dust, and other allergens from entering your home. For the heads up on high pollen days in your area, you may be able to download a pollen forecast app.
- Change your clothes as soon as you get home.
Getting out of your outdoor gear will minimise the amount of time you are exposed to allergens. You can extend this to your sleep environment: if your laundry hamper is currently in your bedroom, consider moving it to another room if possible.
- If you wear eye makeup, take this off too as soon as you get home, rather than right before bed, so you’ve less chance of rubbing mascara into your eyes if they get itchy.
- Dry your clothes inside.
If you have pollen allergies, avoid hanging your washing outside on a high pollen day, or you’re going to be breathing in a lot more than that sunshine fresh smell we love. You won’t be able to see it, but airborne pollen will cling to the fabric.
- Is your nose the problem? Do a saline rinse.
Regular saline rinses will clear your nose and sooth the lining. It’s a simple process you can do in the shower that involves irrigating your nose with saline using a rinse bottle, neti pot or another device. You can use either a commercially manufactured saline solution (available from your pharmacy) or make up a solution yourself at home.
If you’re making it yourself, be careful about bugs – your nasal passages can’t cope with the ordinary micro-organisms in tap water as well as your stomach can!
To make saline solution, mix 1 teaspoon (5g) rock or sea salt in 500 mL of bottled or boiled water. If you want to dive down a slightly gross wormhole, you’ll find plenty of videos on the internet demonstrating the technique.
- Avoid cigarette smoke
Smoking (yourself or by others) makes asthma and allergies worse, and can also prevent medicines from working properly.
- Get someone else to do the cleaning, especially the vacuuming.
If you dread cleaning day because it turns you into a sneezing or wheezing mess, try and get someone else to take over the tasks that give you the most trouble while you head out or hang out in another room.
If you don’t live with someone who can do this for you, get creative! Do you have a friend or neighbour with whom you can barter services of some kind? Or consider posting on a site like Airtasker.
While we’re on the subject, is your vacuum cleaner asthma and allergy friendly? You can find out more about choosing a vacuum cleaner here.
- Be careful with complementary therapies
Certain natural or complementary therapies can cause life-threatening allergic reactions (such as anaphylaxis) in some people with asthma.
Be careful taking Echinacea, bee pollen/propolis (Royal Jelly) or garlic supplements. And be mindful that even 100% essential oils can be a trigger.