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Managing Allergies at Work

Do you space out at work due to allergy symptoms or medication?

Find the Right Allergy Medication for You

"The biggest side effect with most allergy medications is drowsiness or jitteriness," says Charlot.

To avoid meandering through your workday like a zombie, first try treating individual symptoms rather than using systemic medications. For example, if congestion is what's driving you crazy, use nasal sprays. If it's watery eyes, use eyedrops like natural tears to clear the allergens from the eyes. Zaditor is another topical treatment for itchy, watery eyes that recently became over the counter.

But not all topical treatments are created equal, experts say. Over-the-counter nasal sprays like Afrin have a rebound effect. "You get even more congested when you go off of them," says Charlot.

What if the topical approach isn't working? Second- and third-generation antiallergy medications aren't as sedating as the first-generation antihistamines like Benadryl, so you may be able to battle your workday allergy symptoms without feeling doped up instead.

"If you look at the studies on the newer medications like Zyrtec or the newest medication, Xyzal, the groggy feeling is improved," says Charlot. "Even if you're using a slightly sedating antihistamine, the drug counters the somnolence you get from the allergies themselves, so the overall effect is improvement."

"There are totally nonsedating antihistamines like Allegra, Claritin, and Alavert," says Sublett. "Those can treat mild to moderate allergies, but they really won't have much of an impact on moderate to severe allergies."

No matter which allergy medication you choose, be proactive in your treatment.

"The key is regular usage. People think of taking allergy medications when allergens get really bad, or using steroid nasal sprays only when you have trouble," says Sublett. "But the key is regular usage. If you really want to manage your allergy symptoms and be more effective at work, start at the very beginning of the season before things get out of control, and keep using your medications throughout the seasonal symptoms."

If you've tried everything and allergies still get in the way of your work life, the next step may be immunotherapy -- allergy shots. Allergy shots are given anywhere from once to three times a week during the buildup phase, and then down to once a week or less at the maintenance level. "It's the only way to get allergies really under control in the long term," says Sublett.

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Reviewed on July 01, 2008

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