According to the doctors we consulted, these small adjustments could make a major impact on how you feel when allergies strike.
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There's nothing quite like budding leaves and longer days in spring or the crisp, cool air of fall, there's an unpleasant side effect associated with these transitional times of year: seasonal allergies. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), nearly 8% of people suffer from hay fever—cold-like symptoms (runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing, and sinus pressure) caused by allergies.

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And while there are plenty of medications and in-office treatments that can help relieve these discomforts you may wonder if there's a natural approach. Unfortunately, there aren't any proven ways to completely reverse seasonal allergies, says Dr. Shirin Peters, the founder of Bethany Medical Clinic. That said, there are lifestyle changes you can make that should greatly reduce them, says Dr. Niket Sonpal, an internist based in New York City.

1. Mind Your Diet

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect can help allergies—think items high in omega-3s and omega-6s, such as seeds, nuts, and oily fish—says Dr. Sonpal. Another natural elixir? Try local honey. "Since local honey contains trace amounts of local pollen carried by bees, your body can become familiar with local pollens and recognize it as less of a threat, leading to a lower allergic response," says Dr. Peters. Visit a local farmers' market to find some cultivated in your area.

Foods to Avoid

Surprisingly, some traditionally healthy foods can actually exacerbate allergy symptoms. These include produce like apples, bananas, and melon.

Avoid Alcoholic Beverages

"Reduce your intake of alcohol because, like pollen, alcohol stimulates histamines which are the chemicals that cause allergic reactions," says Dr. Sonpal. And if you smoke cigarettes, do your utmost to quit and stay away from those who do smoke. "Smoke itself is another allergen similar to pollen—it will irritate your ears, throat, and nose," he says.

2. Try Lemon and Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil helps break up mucus secretions and reduce allergy symptoms related to mucus buildup, says Dr. Peters; lemon essential oil can also help. "Lemon oil is anti-inflammatory and increases salivation," she explains. "Both properties reduce the congestion that occurs with seasonal allergies."

Luckily, you can diffuse and inhale lemon and peppermint oils—alternatively, you can add a few drops to your bath or sprinkle food-safe iterations into water or tea.

Avoid Perfume

Though essential oils may help, you might want to stay away from unnecessary fragrances like scented candles and perfumes, since they can irritate and inflame airways, says Dr. Sonpal. "Even swimming in a chlorinated pool can have the same effect," he says.

3. Wear Glasses

Contact lens wearers: When the pollen counts goes up, it's better to reach for your glasses. "If you trap pollen in your eyes with contacts and it stays there, you may experience more problems," says Dr. Sonpal.

4. Change Out of Outside Clothes

When you hang out clothes out to dry, they can attract pollen and other allergens, so opt for indoor solutions, says Dr. Sonpal. Similarly, you should remove clothes you have worn outside—especially if you were doing yard work or gardening—and shower as soon as you get home to wash away allergens on your body.

5. Avoid Outdoor Morning Tasks

In spring, pollen counts tend to be higher in the mornings, says Dr. Sonpal. If you typically exercise outside, save those activities for the evening when the pollen count is lower. Use mornings to get those inside chores done, and shut the windows and run your air conditioning while you work. (Windy days can also exacerbate allergies.)

6. Use a Saline Rinse

When your sinuses are congested, rinse them out, says Dr. Sonpal. "Nasal irrigation using a distilled, sterile saline solution and a neti pot can effectively flush mucus and allergens from the nose."

Just be sure to clean the pot after each use and air dry. For the best results, do nasal rinses twice a day at a minimum. This helps the nasal passages remain moist and prevent environmental allergens from getting trapped in the respiratory tract, he explains.

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