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Are Allergies Cramping Your Sex Life?

Nasal allergies may make you feel anything but romantic. Here's how to get back in the mood.

Time to Medicate continued...

Some over-the-counter medications can also have undesired effects on your sex life. Anneliese Curtis Place, a 42-year-old writer from Santa Barbara, Calif., has had hay fever for at least 15 years, and regularly took allergy medications like Benadryl and Sudafed to manage her symptoms. She had never made the connection between allergies and a diminished interest in sex until an acquaintance made mention of it.

"A friend's sister asked [a group of us] if we realized that these medications dry out more than just sinuses," Curtis Place said, referring to vaginal dryness. That's when it clicked for her. "You don't feel like having sex if you have a runny nose, or feel like you have a head cold," she said. "Then once that's cleared up and you're trying to have sex and it's painful, it's a real killer on the libido."

Benninger says that antihistamines can be drying and sedating. Those effects may help calm some of your allergy symptoms, but they won't do much for your sex life.

"Benadryl makes you feel fatigued and Sudafed makes you feel wired. There are other options you can use to treat people that can [address] those symptoms without the adverse side effects of some of the over-the-counter medications."

For a nonsedating over-the-counter antihistamine, medications such as Claritin can be fairly effective for many people, Benninger says, adding that if you're really congested, a little bit of Afrin spray works well. Just don't use it on a routine basis - no more than a few nights a week - to avoid building up a tolerance to the medication.

There are many prescription medications that effectively manage symptoms that won't put you to sleep or dry you out. A host of prescription antihistamines and nasal sprays are available, which are effective at decreasing nasal symptoms, as well as some of the eye symptoms associated with allergies. Products such as Flonase, Nasonex, Nasacort, and Rhinacort are all fairly comparable in effectiveness in reducing congestion, sneezing, itching, and watery eyes, Benninger notes. There are also anti-allergy eye drops available, which treat both seasonal and year-round allergies.

"If symptoms are bad enough, there is immunotherapy, which is [allergy] shots," Benninger says.

Also in the works is sublingual therapy, which involves placing the antigen (antibody generator) under the tongue. "You won't need shots anymore. You put the antigen under the tongue and you will be able to do it at home," Benninger says. He predicts that within the next two years or so, allergy shots will no longer be needed because of the availability of sublingual therapy.

Nondrug Solutions

Allergy sufferers can take additional steps to reduce the level of allergens from their immediate environment.

"You can focus treatment on the amount of allergy load, or the exposure to the allergy, and limit it," Benninger says. "If you're allergic to dust, you can [remove] carpets, and use filters. You're better off with blinds than curtains."

In addition, treatments that help to clear out the nose are helpful. Sinus rinses, including Neti pots, or just a homemade mixture of salt and water that can be used to clear the nasal passages can be very helpful in relieving symptoms.

Bottom line: "Allergies are 100% treatable with the right combination of prevention, environmental modification, medication, or allergy shots. If you do all three, people for the most part, do very well with allergies," Bassett says. "With proper treatment, we can help people feel better and look better."

That's not just good news for your allergies, but for your sex life as well.

Reviewed on October 23, 2009

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