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    Allergies and Your Sinuses: Fighting Allergic Rhinitis

    A guide to the best stuff for stuffy noses, from prescription treatments to self-care.

    Prescription Treatments for Allergic Rhinitis continued...

    If you are concerned about taking a steroid, experts stress that these are very safe drugs. One key advantage of nasal sprays is that they focus the medication on the affected area – in your nose – and deliver with minimal risk instead of circulating it throughout the body.

    Prescription antihistamines and decongestants. Your doctor may also recommend a prescription antihistamine pill like desloratadine (Clarinex) or levocetirizine (Xyzal). Some prescription antihistamines also contain a decongestant. Azelastine (Astelin) is a nasal spray antihistamine that’s often used alongside steroid sprays. Antihistamines also come as prescription eye drops.

    Other medications. Singulair, a medication called a "leukotriene modifier" helps relieve symptoms of allergic rhinitis, but should not be the main form of treatment. Depending on your symptoms, prescription sprays and eye drops are also options. For severe flare-ups, oral steroids can help -- prednisone is the standard.

    Immunotherapy. While other treatments for allergic rhinitis are a temporary fix, immunotherapy -- in the form of allergy shots or oral tablets or drops -- can be a genuine cure. They work by regularly exposing you to tiny amounts of an allergen, so your body slowly becomes used to it. Over time, even large amounts shouldn’t provoke an allergic reaction. Allergy shots are effective in about 85% to 90% of people.

    If you’re wary of long-term drug use, allergy shots might be the best approach. “What you’re getting in the injection is a tiny amount of the allergen, and your immune system does the rest,” says Bowser. “It’s really the most natural treatment we have.”

    The tablets currently available include Grastek, Ragwitek, and Oralair. After an initial dose in your doctor's office, this type of treatment is usually used at home.

    Allergic Rhinitis Self-Care

    Medications are often the key to handling nasal allergies and sinus problems. But there’s also a lot that you can do on your own. Here are some suggestions.

    Nasal irrigation . To the uninitiated, squirting salt water in your nose might seem to be a bizarre treatment for nasal allergies. But it works. “Some trials found that nasal irrigation works as well as antihistamines in reducing symptoms,” says Bowser. There’s evidence that it relieves sinus symptoms, too.

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