HouseFresh is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How to Deal With Smoke Allergy Symptoms

Last updated April 7, 2023

Based in Manchester, Marie is one of the writers at HouseFresh and our resident dust expert. She works together with our in-house researchers and our Managing Editor to produce in-depth articles offering practical advice on how to tackle indoor air quality issues.

Our verdict:


A smoke allergy can cause various symptoms, such as coughing, breathing difficulties and congestion. Fortunately, many home remedies can ease symptoms, from simply drinking more water to eating spicy foods. 

One of the most effective solutions is an air purifier, which can convert unhealthy, smoke-filled air into cleaner, more breathable air.

Whether from exhaust fumes or second-hand smoke, we all know what breathing suddenly in a waft of smoke is like. It’s never pleasant, yet the experience can be even more problematic for people with a smoke allergy. 

You’ve come to the right place if you’re concerned about this. 

Firstly, you’ll find a bumper guide on how to deal with the symptoms, with tips including breathing exercises and applying a warm compress. Next, we’ll look at the types of smoke that can cause allergy symptoms. 

Finally, we’ll look at the importance of using an air purifier to combat the problem and recommend the best devices.

11 Tips to Tackle Smoke Allergy Symptoms Right Now

Scroll down a bit to discover which types of smoke might be causing your allergies to flare up, or keep reading for tips about tackling the symptoms. 

Tip 1: Use a Dehumidifier 

Using a humidifier is one of the most effective ways to increase moisture levels in your home and therefore improve breathing, according to Dr. Kathrin Nicolacakis.

Pro tip: Be sure to change the water in your humidifier daily because mold and bacteria can quickly grow in standing water.
📖 Scientific Proof
A study from Harvard reports that humid air can help to cleanse the upper respiratory tract (including the nose, mouth and sinuses), making breathing more comfortable. 

Tip 2: Use Eye Drops Daily 

Applying one drop twice daily is generally recommended, although dosage can vary according to your response and medical condition.

Pro tip: Eye drops beyond the prescribed period can cause more irritation, so avoid using them for too long. 
📖 Scientific Proof
Eye drops are particularly effective for relieving allergy-related burning and stinging eyes, according to Dr. Liji Thomas. Many contain an antihistamine, meaning they can block a substance called histamine — the chemical responsible for several allergy systems. 

Tip 3: Use a Neti Pot 

A neti pot will thin mucus and flush it out of your system, easing congestion. You can buy the pots in pharmacies and online. 

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Fill the pot with the saline solution.
  2. Tilt your head over a sink and place the spout into one nostril, then gently pour the solution into that nostril. The liquid will flow out through the other nostril. 
  3. Refill the pot and repeat the process on the other nostril.
Pro tip: Use distilled, sterile, or boiled and cooled tap water. Regular tap water contains bacteria and other harmful organisms that can remain in your nasal passages.
📖 Scientific Proof
According to a report published in American Family Physician, saline (or saltwater) nasal irrigation can effectively treat people with upper respiratory conditions, including allergic rhinitis. 

Tip 4: Breathing Exercises 

If you’re unfamiliar with pranayama, don’t worry; any slow, deep breathing exercises (especially in a warm environment) can expand your lung capacity. Try this:

  1. Sit or lie down and place your hands on your abdomen
  2. Breathe in through your nose slowly, feeling your stomach expanding
  3. Hold your breath for a few seconds
  4. Breathe slowly through your mouth
Pro tip: It’s a good idea to practice breathing exercises when you’re not gasping and feel at ease. This means you can turn to them as and when needed.
📖 Scientific Proof
Breathing exercises, particularly a yogic form called pranayama, can help to relax your airways and therefore ease wheezing, according to the Cleveland Clinic

Tip 5: Drink Water 

This is simple, but it’s true — just drinking more water can ease a hoarse throat. A raspy, breathy or strained voice characterizes Hoarseness. 

Pro tips: Drink 64 ounces (approx. 2 liters) of water daily. Alcoholic and caffeinated drinks can dry out your throat. If you drink one cup of coffee, add an extra cup of water etc. 
📖 Scientific Proof
According to an article published in the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, keeping hydrated helps your body produce more mucus, which means your vocal cords stay lubricated. A

Tip 6: Apply a Warm Compress 

While staying hydrated and drinking water above can relieve headaches, applying a warm compress to your face can also work as the heat helps to relax tense muscles. 

Pro tip: Taking a warm shower or bath may also have a similarly soothing effect.
📖 Scientific Proof
A warm, wet washcloth is one of the most common methods and The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends applying it several times a day. 

Tip 7: Eat Chilli 

Chilli can help reduce a runny nose, but other spicy foods will also do the trick. Is anyone up for a curry tonight? 

Pro tip: Spicy foods aren’t for everyone, so steam inhalation via a warm bath or using a neti pot, as previously mentioned, can also help.
📖 Scientific Proof
Chilli contains a chemical compound called capsaicin. This has anti-inflammatory properties and can numb nerve endings in the nose. A study published in 2016 found that capsaicin could ease non-allergic rhinitis.  

Tip 8: Drink Ginger Tea

Try eating some crystallized ginger instead of a throat lozenge. As ginger is also a muscle relaxant, it may help loosen a tight chest.

Pro tip: If you are not a fan of ginger, any other hot drink will do the trick. A study published in the Rhinology Journal discovered that hot fluids might decrease pain areas in the brain. Hot, sweet drinks, such as those with honey (which also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties) are the most effective.
📖 Scientific Proof
Ginger is a well-known aid for nausea, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties and can ease coughing. A 2016 study found that ginger can suppress coughing. 

Tip 9: Eat Fruit

Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine and antioxidant found in citrus fruits like oranges and vegetables such as broccoli. 

Pro tip: The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. For those with allergic rhinitis, this can be increased to 200 mg (but no more, as this can create side effects).
📖 Scientific Proof
A study published in the Journal of International Medical Research found that a high intravenous dose of vitamin C helped to reduce allergy-related symptoms, such as sneezing.

Tip 10: Get an Air Purifier

If you’re wondering what air purifiers actually do… They use fans and filters to draw in dirty air before pushing clean, healthier air out.  

📖 Scientific Proof
A 2020 study found that they help reduce indoor allergens’ concentration and are especially beneficial for people with allergic rhinitis. 

Making your own DIY air filter is one option, but if you’re thinking of buying, look no further. We’ve tested many purifiers at HouseFresh, including ones for wildfire smoke, cigarette smoke, cigar smoke and the best budget devices.

Here’s our roundup of the top three units for removing smoke:

🔥 For Wildfire Smoke🚗 For Traffic Pollution🚬 For Cigarette Smoke
Smart Air Blast MiniIQAir Healthpro PlusAlen Breathsmart 75i
AIR CLEANING SPEED ⚡17 minutes25 minutes24 minutes
CADR 👩‍🔬435 CFM (740 m³/h)300 CFM (510 m³/h)347 CFM / 589 m³/h
FILTER TECHNOLOGY 💨H13 HEPA FilterHyperHEPA and V50-CELL gas and odor filterB4-Fresh filter (H13 True HEPA and Activated Carbon Pellets)
MAX ROOM SIZE 📏up to 915 sq. ft.450 to 1125 sq. ft.up to 1,300 sq. ft.
WEIGHT ⚖️59 lbs (26.8 kg)35 lbs (16 kg)27 lbs (12.2 kg)
OUR REVIEW 🔍Smart Air Blast Mini reviewIQAir Healthpro Plus reviewAlen 75i review
PRICE 💵$649.00$899.00$748.99

Last update on 2023-06-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Common Types of Smoke That Cause Allergy Symptoms 

Many types of smoke exist, including weed zand incense, but let’s look at three major types that can cause allergy symptoms.

🔥 Wildfire Smoke 

According to the CDC, wildfire smoke can cause lung irritation and inflammation and affect the immune system. It could also make people more prone to lung infections, including the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Yet, wildfire smoke also causes allergy symptoms like a runny nose, coughing and difficulty breathing.  

Why is it so problematic? 

Well, it’s primarily due to particle matter and gaseous pollutants — two key components of wildfire smoke. A mix of liquid droplets and solids, particulate matter can remain suspended for hours and even days in polluted air. Because the particles are so tiny, they can enter your lungs, throat and nose. 

Gaseous pollutants are invisible, toxic gases in wildfire smoke and can seriously impact allergies. The various gasses include carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde, benzene and nitrogen oxides. 

🚬 Cigarette Smoke 

While cigarette smoke isn’t considered an allergen (such as pollen), it’s most certainly an irritant and can cause allergy-like symptoms like coughing and sneezing. 

However, the various toxic ingredients and chemicals within the smoke (over 7,000 substances) trigger symptoms rather than the smoke itself. 

The harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke can be especially problematic for people with allergic rhinitis as they may be more sensitive to this type of smoke than others. 

This is because cigarette smoke can irritate the nasal passages and cause the mucus lining in the nose to thin. The mucus lining may already be compromised for people suffering from allergic rhinitis, meaning other irritants can quickly enter their body.

🚗 Air Pollution

The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air. 

The continuing growth of industrialization means that every single day, people are breathing harmful chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide from diesel exhaust fumes and factory chimney emissions. 

This has led to a rise in allergies caused by air pollution. People with underlying allergies, such as pollen, are especially at risk and may require medical intervention. Furthermore, air pollution can also cause allergic rhinitis. 

If you’re particularly concerned about air quality in your city or state, you can check it regularly using Air Now. 

The most common symptoms that a smoke allergy might cause include: 
😮‍💨 Breathing difficulties, sore throat, wheezing, nasal congestion, coughing and sneezing
👁 Burning, Itchy, or stinging eyes
🤯 Headache

Living with a smoke allergy can greatly impact your life, but luckily, many effective ways exist to reduce and ease the various symptoms. Buying an air purifier (or making your own) is a wise choice as it will help you breathe in cleaner, sanitized air, alleviating symptoms.


Advanced ENT & Allergy Center. (2021). Can You Be Allergic to Cigarette Smoke?
AirNow. (2023). Get air quality data where you live.
Allergy Free. (2020). The world outside is pretty and polluted too. 
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (2023). Headaches.
Allen, P. (2023). 8 Best Air Purifiers for Weed Smoke.
Allen, P. (2022). Is Incense Smoke Bad for You?
Allen, P. (2023). 6 Best Air Purifiers for Cigar Smokers.
Ashton, D. (2023). 8 Best Air Purifiers for Wildfire Smoke We Tested
Ashton, D. (2023). 9 Best Air Purifiers for Cigarette Smoke.
Ashton, D. (2023). 5 Best Air Purifiers Under $100.
Booth, J. (2023). What Does an Air Purifier Do?
Bera, K. et al. (2016). Structural Elements and Cough Suppressing Activity of Polysaccharides from Zingiber officinale Rhizome.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19.
Childs, L. (2020). Voice care: Sorting fact from fiction. 
Clean Air Agency. (2023). DIY Air Filter.
Cleveland Clinic. (2020). Wheezing.
Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Hoarseness.
Cleveland Clinic. (2019). How You Can Tell If You Need a Humidifier.
Curtis, L. (2021). Home Remedies for Wheezing. 
Danahy, A. (2021). Vitamin C for Allergies: Effectiveness, Uses, and Precautions. 
Eccles, R., Sanu, A. (2008). The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu. 
Fokkens, W., et al. (2016). Current Allergy and Asthma Reports.
Frothingham, S. (2018). Can You Be Allergic to Cigarette Smoke?
Graedon, T. (2017). How to Calm a Cough with Crystallized Ginger.
Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. (2021). Breathing humid and salt-enriched air reduces respiratory droplet generation.
Hewings-Martin, Y. (2017). Are hot drinks or ice pops better for sore throat? 
Mayo Clinic. (2022). Migraines: Simple steps to head off the pain.
Park, K. H., et al. (2020). Effects of Air Purifiers on Patients with Allergic Rhinitis: a Multicenter, Randomized, Double-Blind, and Placebo-Controlled Study.
Rabago, D., et al. (2009). American Family Physician.
Soma Technology. (2020). How To Deal With Smoke Allergy.
Thomas, L. (2018). Health Risks and Benefits of Eye Drops.
US Food & Drug Administration. (2021). Is Rinsing Your Sinuses With Neti Pots Safe?
Urgent Care Omaha. (2022). How Does Wildfire Smoke Affect Allergies?
Vollbracht, C. (2018). Intravenous vitamin C in the treatment of allergies: an interim subgroup analysis of a long-term observational study.
Web MD. (2023). Antihistamine Eye Drops – Uses, Side Effects, and More.
Web MD. (2023). Nasal Saline Irrigation and Neti Pots. 
Wessels, D. (2018). What home remedies can help with a runny nose?
World Health Organization. (2018). 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air, but more countries are taking action.

Last update on 2023-06-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API