How to Get Rid of Allergies, According to Allergy & Immunology Doctors

Nearly half of Americans have some type of allergy. Are you one of them? Here's everything you need to know about if allergies can be cured (they can!), how to prevent allergy attacks, how to manage your symptoms, and the best allergy products to buy—all brought to you by the top allergy docs in the field.

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If you’re sick of constantly sniffling, itching, and coughing, you likely are in a place where you’re searching the Internet on how to get rid of allergies. (Here’s how to tell whether you’ve got a cold or allergies.) Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusing information online when it comes to dealing with them. Can eating local honey actually help with seasonal allergy symptoms? Do eating certain foods cure your allergies? Is it possible to get rid of allergies through doctor-monitored exposure? Are you only born with allergies, or can you develop allergies over time? And why on earth does it feel like your allergies just keep getting worse?

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It’s not (all) in your head: Your allergies are getting worse

Allergy season was rough in 2022 and you can expect it to continue to worsen, thanks to global climate change, says Allen J. Dozor, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Division Chief of Pulmonology, Allergy & Sleep Medicine at New York Medical College. “So-called ‘seasonal’ allergies are caused by pollen and mold spores released throughout the year but climate change is lengthening and worsening allergy season,” he says. “With warming temperatures and the continuous shift of seasonal patterns, your allergies will arrive sooner in the spring and last longer into the fall. For people with multiple sensitivities, this can mean you feel allergies year-round.”

It’s not just seasonal allergies, food and environmental allergies are also on the rise among children and adults. More than 32 million people in the US have at least one food allergy and that number has doubled each of the last three decades, according to a study published in JAMA.

Taken together, half of all Americans have some type of allergy. That’s a lot of suffering!

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Allergies can affect your overall physical and mental health

If allergies were just some sniffling and sneezing, this might not be that big of a deal, but allergy symptoms can significantly affect your quality of life—in fact, they are one of the top reasons Americans give more missing work, says James Sublett, MD, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Family Allergy & Asthma in Louisville, Kentucky, and a past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).

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Worsening allergies can lead to significant health problems over time, like asthma, eczema and skin allergies, insomnia, and sleep apnea, says Dr. Dozor. They can also exacerbate other pre-existing health conditions, like autoimmune illnesses, sleep disorders, fatigue, chronic pain; impair the effectiveness of your immune system; and increase depression and anxiety, adds Dr. Sublett. (Here’s how allergies and asthma are linked.) Allergies can even cause chest pain, mimicking heartburn.

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How do you develop an allergy in the first place?

An allergy develops when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to a particular component of the allergen—usually a food, pollen, or animal—and it’s this overactive response from your immune system that causes the symptoms of the allergy, explains David Stukus, MD, allergist, associate professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Immunology, director of the Food Allergy Treatment Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. (Some people are so sensitive they develop “oral allergy syndrome.”)

Allergies aren’t something you are simply born with; you can develop or outgrow allergies throughout your life—and the changes can be unpredictable, says Dr. Stukus. For instance, 80% of children diagnosed with a milk allergy will outgrow it all on their own by the time they hit their teens. Even peanut allergies, which is considered one of the worst offenders, sees 20% of sufferers grow out of it naturally by adulthood.

Unfortunately it can go the opposite direction—these are the most common allergies people develop as adults.

Sometimes people see a remission of their allergies after a big move. A change of environment will fix your allergy by changing your exposure to the allergens you’ve developed a sensitivity to, he adds.

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Can allergies be cured?

In a word: Sometimes. Some allergies are curable now, thanks to a medical treatment called allergy immunotherapy.

“If you are looking for a proactive way to ‘get rid’ of your allergy, you can consider immunotherapy,” says Andrea Burke, MD, a New York City-based board-certified allergist and immunologist. “Allergen immunotherapy involves exposing a person to an allergen repeatedly, usually with gradually increasing doses, in order to desensitize them. For environmental allergy, the options are allergy shots (injections) or sublingual tablets which contain allergens customized based on what a person is allergic to.”

For example, Dr. Burke explains for someone with a bee or wasp allergy, treatment with small injections of the insect’s venom over time could be beneficial for “curing” a person’s allergy. Immunotherapy for venom and environmental allergy can take up to 3 to 5 years.

As for a food allergy, Dr. Burke explains there is a new treatment called Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) built with the same principle of desensitizing a person. “People are given increasing ‘doses’ of a food allergen on a daily basis,” she says. “This allows them to safely consume small amounts of the food and avoid severe allergic reactions. Unfortunately, studies have not yet proven whether the effect is permanent once OIT is stopped.”

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Can allergies be cured naturally?

There are a lot of myths out there about how to “cure” allergies using foods, supplements, or other all-natural remedies, says Dr. Stukus. “Some of these treatments may help relieve symptoms, others won’t do anything, but some can actually cause harm so it’s important to talk to your doctor about any allergies or sensitivities you have,” he says.

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Okay, but what about honey? Eating a spoonful of local honey as a cure for allergies is one of the most popular (and tasty, honestly) myths—but it’s just that, a myth. Even though there are some claims that the pollen in local honey can benefit those that struggle with seasonal allergies, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America confirms it does not help.

In terms of how to get rid of allergies and when you can “outgrow” them, natural remedies likely won’t be as effective as getting immunotherapy treatment from a doctor, says Dr. Burke. Allergies can be treated over time thanks to advancing medicine from immunologists.

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What you can do now to help stop your allergies

Okay, so you can’t cure your allergies on your own, nor can you stop pets from shedding, plants from pollinating, mold from…molding (ew), or peanuts from existing, but you’re not helpless. There are plenty of expert- and science- backed tips and strategies you can use to help reduce allergy attacks and manage the symptoms, say our docs.

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Preventing allergy attacks

Prevention is everything when it comes to living with allergies, says Dr. Dozer. First things first: Get allergy testing done and figure out what you are allergic to.

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Many people find their symptoms flare up the worst in the indoor environments where they spend the most time, like their home or office—adding insult to watery-eyed injury. Here are some strategies to reduce symptoms and attacks inside:

Of course, once you step outdoors it’s a whole new ballgame—especially if your allergies are triggered by plant material. Here are our experts recommendations for preventing allergies outdoors.

  • Track the pollen count through the news or an app
  • Stay indoors or wear a mask if you must go outside on high-pollen days
  • Wear a hat, gloves, and sunglasses outside to reduce contact with allergens
  • Change your clothing as soon as you get home and put outdoor clothing directly in the wash
  • Remove shoes before coming inside
  • Shower after coming indoors

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Managing allergy symptoms naturally

These won’t “cure” an environmental or food allergy but there are some natural allergy remedies that can help provide relief.

Take supplements that act as antihistamines

Vitamin D is a superstar, boosting your bone health, gut health, and even your mental health—and now you can allergy-fighting to the list. A 2016 review in Clinical & Experimental Allergy found some evidence that vitamin D intake can help with allergy symptoms, as well as eczema and asthma, says Dr. Burke.

Other supplements that may help allergies include vitamin-C, stinging nettles, N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC), quercetin and bromelain as these all have natural antihistamine properties.

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Eat foods that fight inflammation

These foods can’t cure your allergies but what you eat can help lessen your symptoms—especially those rich in quercetin (onions, cabbage, peppers, berries, and apples) or take a quercetin supplement to naturally reduce allergic symptoms.

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Skip allergenic foods

If you know you are sensitive or allergic to a food, don’t eat it. Unfortunately that’s not always as simple as it sounds as wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, and sugar are among the most common food sensitivities.

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Rinse your nose and eyes with saline

One of the easiest natural remedies for allergies is to spritz a saline rinse into your nose daily to wash away pollen. You can also use a saline eye wash to rinse out irritants. This method won’t necessarily take the place of medication, but it could reduce your need for drugs. In one study, participants who rinsed their sinuses daily for eight weeks reported less nasal congestion than those who didn’t.

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Get acupuncture

Acupuncture may help relieve hay fever, according to research published in the Allergo Journal International. There are many other surprising conditions that you can treat with acupuncture.

Check out these beauty and makeup tips to conceal allergy symptoms —including those scary looking “allergic shiners” bruises around your eyes.

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Medications to treat allergies

If you need to stop seasonal allergies quickly, Purvi Parikh, MD, FACP, FACAAI, adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist, Professor at New York University School of Medicine, and National Spokeswoman for the Allergy & Asthma Network, recommends an oral antihistamine and/or nasal and ocular antihistamines because they’re all available over the counter and work within 20-30 minutes. “For very severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, use your Epipen immediately,” Dr. Parikh says. “This works in seconds, even faster than the antihistamines.”

For day-to-day management of symptoms and preventing allergy attacks, you can take a daily prescription (like Fluorometholone or Dymista) or an over-the-counter medication (like Allegra or Zyrtec). Allergy nasal sprays, both OTC and prescription, are another option.

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Sources

JAMA: "Prevalence and Severity of Food Allergies Among US Adults"

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: "Milk Allergy"

David Stukus, MD, allergist, associate professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Immunology, director of the Food Allergy Treatment Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital, and member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)

James Sublett, MD, an allergist in Lousiville, Kentucky, and a past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI)

Andrea Burke, MD, a New York City-based board-certified allergist and immunologist.

Purvi Parikh, MD, FACP, FACAAI, adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist, Professor at New York University School of Medicine, and National Spokeswoman for the Allergy & Asthma Network

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, MS, is an award-winning journalist, author, and ghostwriter who for nearly two decades has covered health, fitness, parenting, relationships, and other wellness and lifestyle topics for major outlets, including Reader’s Digest, O, The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health, and many more. Charlotte has made appearances with television news outlets such as CBS, NBC, and FOX. She is a certified group fitness instructor in Denver, where she lives with her husband and their five children.
Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a journalist and content strategist with a main focus on nutrition, health, and wellness coverage. She holds an MA in Journalism from DePaul University and a Nutrition Science certificate from Stanford Medicine. Her work has been featured in publications including Taste of Home, Reader's Digest, Bustle, Buzzfeed, INSIDER, MSN, Eat This, Not That!, and more.