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    Treating Your Allergy

    You might want to reach for medicine right away. But there’s something doctors recommend you do first.

    Rinse your nose with salt water. A simple yet effective way to remove irritating pollen from your nose is to wash it out using a saline rinse and a bulb syringe or Neti pot.

    “It’s like washing your hands if you have a cat,” Demain says. “It’s especially helpful, since tiny hairs in your nose trap the pollen.”

    If you need more relief, doctors usually recommend these treatments, in this order:

    Steroid nasal sprays. You don’t need a prescription for these products, which help with seasonal allergy symptoms. “These are very effective, but they work best if you start early, before the allergy season begins,” Demain says.

    Antihistamines. To ease your symptoms, these medicines temporarily block the chemicals released in your nose and eyes that cause the itching and sneezing. You can buy them over the counter or by prescription. Some are pills. Others are eye drops.

    Older formulas, such as diphenhydramine, can cause sleepiness. But the so-called “second generation” of antihistamines -- such as cetirizine, fexofenadine, and loratadine -- can work as long as 24 hours without causing drowsiness in most people. If you need a stronger medicine that lasts even longer, ask your doctor about prescription antihistamines like levocetirizine (Xyzal). You can also get a prescription nasal antihistamine as a spray from you doctor.

    Decongestants. They come as pills, eye drops, and liquids and are available over the counter. Nasal sprays can clear up a stuffed nose, but they won’t do anything for your itching or sneezing. They’re meant for short-term use and could cause a “rebound” effect with worse congestion if you take them for more than 3 days.

    If you have asthma and allergies, the prescription pill montelukast (Singulair) has been used to treat asthma for years. Recent research shows it can ease seasonal allergy symptoms. It’s extra helpful if you have the double whammy of asthma and allergies.

    Immunotherapy (allergy shots or tablets). You can try this as a long-term treatment if antihistamines, nasal sprays, and eye drops don’t give you enough relief. The goal is to gradually introduce larger doses of allergens into your body, so that you eventually stop reacting to them. You’ll probably get it as a series of shots at your doctor’s office every 1 to 4 weeks. It’s a big commitment -- 3 to 5 years. But you should start to see results in the first few months.