I never really had issues with allergies as a kid but they certainly sneaked up on me in my 20s and 30s. Each year seemed to get worse and worse. I eventually got allergy tests (the one where they prick your back) to find out I am indeed mildly allergic to cat, dog, and grass and more intensely to pine and dust.
I also feel I am allergic to certain foods that turn into a mucus-y reaction in my body. I'd wake up with a runny nose and a gag-type cough that would last until about mid-morning, which I figure was my system clearing everything out. Through process of elimination, I narrowed down the food that was causing the reaction to most forms of dairy (particularly cream-heavy dairy like butter and ice cream), coffee, and chocolate. Maybe it was my own body telling me I shouldn't eat this stuff (and I am certainly healthier for it).
What all this means is my runny nose, sneezing, sinus buildup, itchy eyes, and gag-like cough can flair up at any time. At first I tried my doctor's recommendations for over-the-counter allergy medicine (Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, Flonase, etc.). I guess some of them helped but I never noticed a material change. Plus I am not a fan of relying on medicine if I don't have to.
Then I saw another doctor about my suspicions with food allergies. This doctor didn't help me determine if I had any food allergies but did suggest I try a Neti Pot to better control my symptoms. I took him up on the suggestion, and it has worked out really well.
Now anytime I feel the runny nose, sinus buildup, and cough starting, I know it is time for a Neti Pot rinse. I got the version where you tilt your head and pour the saline solution into one nostril and have it drain out the other. At first it is weird but easier than I thought. You keep your mouth open so you can breath while you're doing it. And most of the solution just goes out the other nostril. Some can trickle into the throat or ear channel, but it drains right back out as well.
Why it works is because the saline solution is accelerating what your body is already trying to do on its own. It's producing all that water and mucus to rinse out your nose and throat channels. So why not just use a clean, safe solution to accelerate the process?
At first, I was doing the rinse once a day or every other day. Now my allergies are much improved and I only need to do once a week or every other week. I have a whole setup in my bedroom and bathroom including a microwave so I don't have to go downstairs to the kitchen to heat up the water.
The picture above shows you my setup. All I do is pour 1 cup of distilled water into a glass measuring cup and heat in a microwave for 45-50 seconds until the water is 90-95 degrees. I then pour the water into the Neti Pot and add a packet of the saline solution. Stir with a spoon, put the lid on, and then run half the solution through one nostril and the other half through the other nostril.
Be sure to have paper towels or tissues around to blow your nose after rinsing. And be gentle with your blowing so the water comes out and not into your ear drums. Then when done, give everything a rinse with hot tap water and put it on a paper towel to air dry.
So the next time your allergy symptoms flair up, give the Neti Pot a try. I have no doubt it will leave you breathing better and lead to reducing your allergy symptoms better than medication can (and at a fraction of the cost).