Home Life Allergy hacks from honey to nettle leaf tea. Do they actually work?

Allergy hacks from honey to nettle leaf tea. Do they actually work?

by Patricia R. Mills

Allergy season is upon us, and just as fast as you’re blowing your nose, social media is blowing up with “hacks” to make your sniffles and itchy eyes more bearable. But do they work?

Dr. Tania Elliott, a board-certified internist, allergist, and immunologist, says allergies are an abnormal response to something normally occurring in the environment. Symptoms can include itching, swelling, and redness, which is why many look for relief.

“The most common allergens are things found in the air,” she adds. “In the springtime, you get allergies to tree pollens. In the summertime, it’s more grass pollen. And in the late summer, until the first frost, it’s between ragweed pollen and outdoor molds.”Allergy hacks from honey to nettle leaf tea. Do they actually work?

On TikTok, people are scavenging for ways to help ease seasonal allergies. The hashtag #allergyhack has 4.2 million views, #allergyrelief has 6.3 million views, and #seasonalallergies has 18.3 million.

We had experts weigh in to determine if social media-recommended tips were helpful or a hoax.

DDolocal honey and nettle leaf tea help allergies?

One popular tip shared online is that consuming local honey can help treat and prevent allergies.

It assumes that honey from a local area contains seasonal pollens representative of your region,” says Dr. Jeanne M. Lomas, director of allergy and immunology at WellNow Allergy. “By consuming the honey regularly, you would be ingesting a ‘dose’ of the pollen as well, hoping to build up an immunity to these allergens. Unfortunately, scientific studies have consistently failed to prove local honey’s benefits on allergy relief.”

Elliott agrees that, in theory, this strategy of inducing tolerance makes sense – and is similar to what is done with allergen immunotherapy. The difference, however, is that with immunotherapy, medical professionals know exactly what the person is allergic to and control the amount given to them, steadily increasing the amount over time.

“There are a couple of reasons why the local honey concept is inaccurate. One is the types of flowers that bees pollinate for the most part are not the things that cause people to have allergies,” she says. “(And) there’s not a good way to increase the dosage of it to get an impactful response from the immune system.”

“That said, there’s not a ton of harm in it,” she says, adding that she suspects people start to feel better with this method because the honey has a soothing effect on a scratchy throat.

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For more certain results, Lomas recommends allergy immunotherapy prescribed by an allergist in the form of injections or FDA-approved tablets, which are “a well-studied and highly effective way to provide controlled doses of allergens.”

“Allergy immunotherapy is the only potentially curative treatment for seasonal and environmental allergies,” she notes.

Another ingredient people claim helps with their allergies is nettle leaf tea.

While both nettle leaf and the butterbur plant are natural antihistamines, Elliott says the challenge with some herbal supplement options is not knowing how much you consume.

Lomas generally asks patients to be cautious with herbal supplements and remedies.

“For the general population, they may be safe and effective; however, for most of my patients, who are allergic to plants – trees, grasses, weeds – they can be detrimental,” she cautions. “Herbal remedies can be in the same plant family as some ofasonal pollens. Thus, I have seen allergic reactions to various plant products and essential oils, especially when applied directly onto the body.”

If patients still decide to try them, Lomas recommends caution and discuss any side effects with your allergist.

To help soothe allergy-induced itchy eyes, some on social have suggested using a cold face mask or compress.

This hack is doctor approved! “When you have an allergy, it causes swelling in the blood vessels,” Elliott explains. “So the cold itself will work to combat that.”

In addition to helping soothe swelling and redness, Elliott explains the cold can almost trick the brain into ignoring your itching since the sensations of itch, cold, and pain are transmitted through the same sensor and “can’t transmit all those things at once.”

More tips to help with allergy season

Lomas explains that people can take environmental precautions to decrease exposure to seasonal pollens.

“These include keeping windows closed and running (air conditioning) units, if available, in the warmer months,” she adds. “Removing jackets, clothing, and shoes and washing off after extended periods outdoors can also help reduce pollen exposure. If you cannot bathe immediately, aim to wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face (especially eyes and nose) to reduce pollen transmission to these areas.”

Pets can also track pollen in on their bodies, so washing hands after petting or caring for animals (and periodically washing your animals) can be helpful, Lomas adds.

Medical treatments for allergies are available over the counter as well.

“These include oral antihistamines (pills, chewable tablets or liquids) that can be taken daily as needed, medicated nasal sprays, and several types of eye drops,” Lomas says. “My favorite is non-medicated eye drops that contain only lubricant. These can be refrigerated and placed in the eyes throughout the day for a cooling effect.”

Elliot recommends treating allergies before they start flaring up, if possible.

“If you know that fall is your season, start a regimen at the end of August,” she explains. “Getting into this routine before your allergies get bad is your best chance of controlling things. Once your allergies flare, it is a lot harder to stop the inflammation.”

Lomas advises talking with your doctor if allergy symptoms persist despite over-the-counter medication. And if you aren’t sure what you’re allergic to or what medicine to take, Elliot suggests seeing an allergist who can confirm a diagnosis and get you on the right treatment plan.

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