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Table of Contents > Articles > Hayfever: Conventional and ...
Hayfever: Conventional and Complementary Treatments

Every year the change in seasons triggers stuffy, runny, or itchy noses, itchy eyes, itchy throats, sneezing, and skin rashes or hives. Some people develop sinus headaches, with pain around their eyes, or have difficulty breathing. These reactions are known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever. Hay fever is directly connected to plant pollination times. In North America, tree pollination occurs between March and the end of May, grass from June into early July, and ragweed from mid-August until early October. The good news is that there are many treatments, both conventional and complementary, that can ease the symptoms of hay fever.

What are some conventional treatments for hay fever?

Many conventional treatments are available over-the-counter. They include antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays. Other conventional options are cromolyn sodium and immunotherapy. Cromolyn sodium, often prescribed for children, is a very safe drug that can treat and prevent allergic reactions. Cromolyn seems to work best for people with mild-to-moderate allergies. Immunotherapy requires receiving injections every 2 to 6 weeks of allergen extract(s) derived from your specific allergen(s). Although immunotherapy is time-consuming, many studies have shown that it is an effective remedy for hay fever. Your physician may also recommend a stronger drug, possibly one that contains steroids.

What complementary or alternative treatments are there?

There are several complementary and alternative therapies to try. Many of these can be taken along side conventional medications. In addition to those listed below, other potentially helpful therapies include chiropractic, cranial osteopathy, and deep tissue massage.

Vitamins and minerals

Including the following nutrients in your diet can help to reduce hay fever symptoms:

  • Vitamin A—10,000 to 15,000 IU a day
  • Vitamin B6—50 to 100 mg a day
  • Vitamin B5—50 to 75 mg a day
  • Vitamin C—1,000 mg one to two times a day
  • Vitamin E—400 IU a day
  • Zinc—20 to 30 mg a day

Herbs and supplements

Doctors report success with tinctures and teas made from stinging nettles (Urtica dioica). In addition, there are other herbs and supplements that may be helpful:

  • Quercetin—250 mg two to three times a day
  • Echinacea—30 drops of tincture two to three times a day
  • Goldenseal—30 drops of tincture two to three times a day

Homeopathic remedies

Homeopathic immunotherapy is another option. A homeopathic practitioner will identify the best remedies for your allergies. Galphimia glauca, for example, may help runny and itchy eyes associated with allergies. Hydrastis nasal spray, a homeopathic product based on goldenseal, may also be helpful. A German homeopathic nasal spray for hay fever (Hay Fever Nasal Spray in U.S.) is very similar to cromolyn sodium. Like cromolyn, it is more effective for people with mild-to-moderate symptoms.


Acupuncture has been shown to be effective even for people with allergies that are difficult to cure. In two recent studies, more than 90 percent of patients experienced reduced symptoms after treatment with acupuncture.


Omega-3 fatty acids (for example, fish or flaxseed oil) may improve breathing in people with asthma that's triggered by allergens in the air.

See your doctor to discuss your treatment plan, especially when over-the-counter remedies do not help your symptoms. Be aware that some natural remedies should not be used if you have certain health conditions or if you are taking particular medications. Be evaluated promptly for allergies that cause complications such as asthma or sinus infections.


Herbal teas: Using 1 tsp. dried herb per cup of hot water, steep 5 to 10 minutes for dried leaves or flowers, 10 to 20 minutes for dried roots.

Tincture: A preparation made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts alcohol or 1 part herb to 10 parts alcohol.


Access: Professional References to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

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Durham SR, Walker SM, Varga E, et al. Long-term clinical efficacy of grass-pollen immunotherapy. New Engl J Med. 1999;341(7):468-475.

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Review Date: March 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

Allergic Rhinitis
Stinging Nettle
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin E
Cromolyn Sodium
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