How to Beat Seasonal Allergies without Spending a Fortune

Young man with a tissue to his nose after sneezing due to allergiesAh-choo! It’s springtime, and that means allergy season is here. Between the doctor’s visits and the meds, I end up spending a fortune each spring. Is there any way you can beat my symptoms while keeping my budget intact?

If you feel like you’re emptying your wallet during allergy season, you’re not alone. According to a study cited on the Asthma and Allergy Association of America’s website, Americans spend a collective $1.3 billion on allergy-related physician visits, and another $11 billion on allergy medications each year. With 1 in 5 Americans suffering from seasonal allergies, those numbers are only growing bigger.

You don’t need to choose between endless sneezing and your budget this allergy season. You can have both by following the tips outlined below.

Keep your windows closed
Those gentle spring breezes might be delightful, but they carry irritating allergens on their backs. When you open your windows, you’re letting them right into your home. This is especially true during high pollinating times, which generally fall between 5 and 10 a.m. If you can hack it, you may want to stay indoors during those times, too.

Wash up after spending time outdoors
If you must be outside during the early morning hours, especially on breezy days, wash up and change your clothing and shoes as soon as you get inside. Pollens can cling to you, triggering your symptoms even when you’re inside your home. If you have pets, wipe down their paws and fur when they come in from the outdoors as well.

See an allergist before heading to the pharmacy
Don’t assume you know what you’re allergic to just because you’ve been tested in the past. Allergies can change with age and with season, and you don’t want to blow a ton of money on medications that may not even ease your symptoms. It’s best to consult with an allergist who can help you identify your allergies as well as a course of treatment instead of going it alone.

Use prescription apps instead of insurance
With steep co-pays and deductibles, it’s not always worthwhile to pay for medications through your insurance. Before filling a script, check out prescription apps like GoodRx or SingleCare to see if you can get it cheaper using the app’s special offers and coupons.

Go generic or over-the-counter
You can save a ton of money by buying the generic version of the meds you need instead of the name brand. Similarly, over-the-counter (OTC) options might work just as well, so do your research before deciding which drugs to take.

Create a DIY saline rinse
Even with the cheaper generic or OTC options, saline sprays can get pricey. Make your own solution for a fraction of the price by mixing one-half teaspoon of salt with eight ounces of filtered water. You can pick up an empty spray container at your pharmacy, dollar store, or on Amazon for just a few dollars. You can also gargle with your homemade solution several times a day to help relieve a sore or scratchy throat.

Consider allergy shots instead of drugs
Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, can be a simple and effective way to treat or prevent allergy symptoms. Consider this course of treatment instead of turning to more expensive drugs as your first choice.

Take your symptoms seriously
Allergy symptoms might be super-common and last several months, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t real and irritating. All of that sneezing, itchiness, congestion and more can really take a toll on your body. Treat yourself with extra care during allergy season. Get plenty of rest, eat well-balanced meals, and if you’re truly feeling awful, don’t hesitate to take a sick day to give your body a chance to recover.

Keep your house clean
Irritants like dust, pet dander, mold and mildew can worsen your symptoms during allergy season. Keep your house extra-clean this spring to avoid unnecessary allergy triggers. Vacuum your rugs and upholstered furniture regularly, wash your curtains and drapes, dust often and wash your linens on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Pay close attention to your bathrooms as well, making sure to change your shower curtain and liner when they show signs of mildew. Scrub your sinks, tub and shower with a mold and mildew remover. If you find strong-smelling perfumes or cleaning supplies irritating, banish them from use until allergy season has passed.

Go natural
You won’t be able to stop an allergy attack mid-sneeze with a natural remedy, but you may be able to prevent your symptoms from breaking out or from worsening by trying these alternative allergy treatments:

Local honey
If your main allergen is pollen and you live in an area that has locally produced honey available for sale, eating a spoonful of this honey daily can decrease the severity of your symptoms. The honey, which contains the pollen you’re allergic to, acts like a vaccine, preparing your body for the real pollen attack.

Green tea
Before breaking out the Benadryl, sit down and have yourself a cup of tea. Green tea is full of natural antihistamines, making it terrific for allergy sufferers.

This healthful bacteria, found in yogurts, kombucha and miso, helps regulate the immune system. Loading up on probiotics can help control autoimmune reactions, like allergy symptoms.

The rosmarinic acid found in this herb is known to minimize allergic reactions.

Quercetin, an antioxidant found in broccoli, onions, garlic, cabbage and apples, can prevent the immune system from releasing the histamines that cause allergy symptoms.

With some careful budgeting and proactive choices, you can beat your allergy symptoms this spring without breaking your budget.

Your Turn:
How do you beat your allergies without spending a ton of money? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:

Cold or Allergy? Decoding the Symptoms

Learn to decipher your sniffles so you’ll feel better
Your nose is stuffy, Allergies and your throat hurts. You feel terrible. But is the cause a cold or allergies? When you feel this rotten, you might not care, but it’s important to know the difference. Colds and allergies should be treated differently — and while you should stay home from work if you have a cold, you can keep soldiering on through a minor allergy attack.

Both conditions can result in congestion and sore throats, but once you know which other symptoms accompany each, telling the difference between colds and allergies is fairly easy.

Colds vs. allergies
A cold is a virus passed through the air or hand-to-hand contact. You can also catch a cold by touching something that an infected person has touched. In other words, it’s highly contagious. Allergies, on the other hand, aren’t contagious at all and result from exposure to substances such as dust or pollen. The body mistakes these substances for germs and releases chemicals called histamines to fight them, which results in cold-mimicking symptoms such as congestion, a runny nose, sneezing and coughing, as well as itching.

Symptom check
According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, the following questions can help you decide whether you have a cold or are suffering from allergies:

  • What are your symptoms? If you have a runny nose with clear discharge, a stuffy nose, sneezing, a scratchy throat, wheezing, coughing, and watery and itchy eyes, it’s allergies. A cold produces yellow discharge, aches and pains, and a sore throat.
  • Do you have a fever? If you do, more than likely you have a cold.
  • What time of year is it? Allergies can strike anytime. So can colds, but they’re more common in the wintertime.
  • When did your symptoms start? Allergies begin immediately after exposure to an allergen. Cold symptoms develop a few days After exposure to the virus.
  • How long have your symptoms persisted? Allergies last as long as you are exposed to an allergen. A cold should clear up within a week.

Treatment options
Neither condition can be cured, but you can manage the symptoms of colds and allergies. A decongestant is helpful for either condition when congestion is an issue. Colds respond to rest and plenty of fluids, as well as over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce fevers and aches.

With allergies, try an antihistamine. If your allergies are severe, talk to your doctor about prescribing a nasal steroid spray or exploring immunotherapy (allergy shots).

Whether you decide that you’re suffering from allergies or a cold, be sure to address your symptoms. If left untreated, both colds and allergies can lead to sinus infections, which are more serious and often require antibiotics to treat. Call your doctor if you suspect your condition has progressed to a sinus infection.

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