If you’ve lived below the Mason-Dixon line for any extended period of time, you know that Southern living brings seasonal allergies. In fact, according to WebMD, six of the top 10 worst cities for allergies are in the South: Knoxville, TN; Louisville, KY; Chattanooga, TN; Charlotte, NC; Greensboro, NC; and Jackson, MS. For some, that means living on a constant supply of their pharmaceutical relief of choice, but there are others who prefer a more natural choice.

Here's how to treat your allergies naturally.

The South is an allergy hotspot!

There’s no shortage of information on the internet about naturally treating seasonal allergies, and most of the time, it’s from folks who enjoy practicing medicine without a license. Suggestions like essential oil aromatherapy or eating local honey for treating seasonal allergies are preached by “naturalists,” despite the fact that scientific evidence dispels the efficacy of those options. But if you’re in search of natural allergy treatments, they do actually exist. The use of a neti pot is proven effective, as is a saline wash, both treatments that real doctors endorse.

One of the best ways to treat seasonal allergies naturally, though, is with allergy shots. “Allergy shots are made from a purified form of the specific allergens to which the patient is allergic,” says Dr. Megan Stauffer, a board-certified allergist at The Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center in Nashville, TN.

“Allergy shots are the gold standard in allergy treatment,” agrees Liz Edwards, a patient and employee of The Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center.

Once you get past the word “shot” and are ready to give up the Kleenex, here’s what to expect. To begin, you’ll get a thorough skin test where the skin is pricked with multiple allergens to see which ones do, in fact, cause a reaction. Once the offenders are isolated, the allergists develop a personalized treatment plan specific to you, which is designed to aid the body in building up immunity to the allergen(s). Allergy shots are a type of “immunotherapy,” and by receiving small doses of the allergen, the body’s immune system is trained to tolerate it so that it no longer causes a reaction.

Liz received allergy shots to treat her allergies to cats, dogs, dust mites, mold and a host of others. “I did allergy shots in 1999, and I have been symptom-free ever since,” she says. “I was one of those people who had chronic sinus infections, and now my quality of life is much better.”

According to Dr. Stauffer, the typical treatment plan requires 3 to 5 years of regular allergy shots. In the beginning you’ll get shots more frequently, once or twice a week even, but after immunity begins to build, the treatment schedule slows down, typically to monthly or bimonthly until you’re weaned off of them completely.

“Studies show that this duration provides long-term benefit even after the course of immunotherapy has been completed,” explains Dr. Stauffer, adding that allergy shots are also great for immune boosting. “Allergy shots can prevent development of new allergies, provide long-term benefits in allergy symptoms and, in children, they can prevent the progression of allergies to asthma.”

If you’re worried about cost, don’t be. “Most insurance companies cover allergy shots quite well as it is a preventative form of care,” says Dr. Stauffer, whose practice accepts most insurance plans. But even if you end up having to pay out-of-pocket, the investment most certainly pays for itself when you compare it to a lifetime of money spent on prescriptions, over-the-counter meds and, yes, even local honey.

The Allergy Asthma and Sinus Center has 12 locations across Middle Tennessee and more than 20 across other parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Louisiana. Click here for a list of locations as well as their complete list of services.

Sponsored by The Allergy Asthma and Sinus Center