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5. What kind of side effects can I expect from hay fever treatment?

"Antihistamines may make your mouth dry and sedate you," says Lavi, "so they can make you feel goofy or groggy." But newer antihistamines, such as Alavert, Allegra, and Claritin, tend to cause less drowsiness. Clarinex is another antihistamine that causes less drowsiness that is available by prescription.

Decongestants can raise blood pressure, so be sure to discuss this risk with your doctor. Other side effects of decongestants, says Stone, include:

  • nervousness
  • dizziness
  • sleeplessness

Stone says that nasal steroid sprays may cause:

  • local irritation
  • dryness
  • nosebleeds

Leukotriene blockers cause few side effects, although headache and stomach upset can rarely occur, says Lavi.

Always read and follow the label carefully when taking any over-the-counter medication. Ask your doctor about prescription allergy medicines.

6. Should I see an allergist? Am I a candidate for allergy shots?

Have your symptoms bothered you for more than two months out of the year and you're simply not getting relief? Then you should consider seeing an allergist, a doctor who specializes in treating allergies.

The allergist will take a history and do a physical exam. He or she may also do allergy testing, which typically involves blood or skin testing to confirm what you are allergic to. You may have lung function tests to check for asthma.

If other treatments haven’t worked or caused too many side effects, you might be a candidate for allergy shots, says Lavi. Allergy shots help your body build up a tolerance to what you're allergic to, he says. 

If you improve after a one-year trial, then you may get periodic shots over a three- to five-year period, says Stone. "The hope is that, at the end of this period, you'll continue to be protected for years."

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