Ah, fall. The perfect time to get outside for long walks in the neighborhood, hikes in the hills, and autumn gardening.
But that "ah" can quickly become "ah-choo" if you're one of the 36 million Americans with seasonal allergy problems. The runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion -- all typical fall allergy symptoms -- can slow you down and make you miserable.
While there have been no dramatic advances recently in allergy treatment, experts say if you are allergy-prone, you can take a number of...
You can take antihistamines as pills or nasal sprays. The pills target itching, sneezing, and runny nose. The nasal sprays work on congestion, an itchy or runny nose, and postnasal drip.
Antihistamines can ease symptoms once you have them, but they work best when you take them before you feel allergy symptoms. Taken regularly, antihistamines can build up in your blood to protect against allergens and prevent the release of histamines. Ask your doctor if you should start taking allergy medicine a couple of weeks before you usually have symptoms.
Decongestants cut down on the fluid in the lining of your nose. That relieves swollen nasal passages and congestion.
You can take decongestants by mouth in pills or liquids, or by nasal spray. Common decongestants include pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine.
Some medications combine antihistamines and decongestants. For example, Allegra-D, Claritin-D, and Zyrtec-D combine an antihistamine with the decongestant pseudoephedrine.
Do You Need a Prescription?
Some antihistamines and decongestants need a prescription. Others don't. You could first try a nonprescription medicine and if you don't get relief, check with your doctor to see if you need a prescription.
Even if you take something that doesn't require a prescription, you should let your doctor know what you're taking. They can check that you've got the right medication for your symptoms, and check on side effects.
What About Side Effects?
Older antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine) can make you drowsy. The newer antihistamine Zyrtec (cetirizine) may also cause drowsiness.
Antihistamines such as Allegra (fexofenadine) and Claritin (loratadine) do not usually make you drowsy.
Decongestants can cause:
Increased heart rate
Increased blood pressure
Don’t use decongestant nasal sprays for more than three days in a row as they may worsen your nasal congestion and swelling.
Always check the drug label for more information about side effects.