Got Hay Fever? Get to Work!
With improved over-the-counter allergy drugs, people are able to function better without allergies knocking them down.
OTC vs. Prescription
"While drugstore shelves are loaded with over-the-counter (OTC) allergy
treatments, it's often hard to figure out what you need. A lot of people take
Sudafed for allergies, but it's not an antihistamine," Pacheco says.
"It helps partially, but not completely because it doesn't block histamine.
It's a decongestant, so it will open up your nose, but it
doesn't really treat allergies very well."
"Claritin, Claritin-D (with decongestant), plus generic forms of
Claritin are very cost-effective and nonsedating," says Sharon Horesh, MD,
instructor of clinical medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in
Atlanta. Also, there's Mucinex for drainage and postnasal drip that causes coughing.
"For many people, these OTC medications can take the edge off allergies
and they can function just fine," Horesh tells WebMD. "The drugs are
safe for long-term use, with very few exceptions."
A few caveats: The decongestant in Claritin D can raise blood pressure, so
if you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor. Uncommonly, Claritin can
cause drowsiness. Also, Claritin can cause excessive drying in a relatively
small number of people.
"Hay fever is not a good reason to stay at home, especially with these
good products available now," Horesh says.
If you don't get relief from OTC products, see a primary care doctor, she
says. "You probably need a prescription antihistamine, which is stronger
than Claritin." You may also need a prescription steroid nasal spray like
Flonase, Veramyst, Nasonex, Nasocort, or Rhinocort to
get better control of nasal congestion or postnasal drip. Some people need
prescription eyedrops for itchy eyes.
She gives her patients samples of several brands of antihistamines to try,
since some people respond to one but not another. "One person does great
with Allegra; for another, only Zyrtec works," she says. "There's an element
of trial and error in finding the right one. If you've tried one and it hasn't
worked, it's worth trying an alternative. Try one for a week, and if you get no
response, move to another."
If you've tried everything with no relief, see an allergist. "If allergy symptoms continue, despite these measures, you
probably are highly allergic to multiple things," Horesh says.
Pollen Patrol in Your Environment
Avoiding contact with allergens-- like pollen -- is the tried-and-true
advice that allergists give to patients. You can control your exposure to
pollen at home, in the car, and outdoors. Here are a few suggestions:
- Keep windows closed and use air-conditioning.
- Cover air-conditioning vents with cheesecloth to filter pollen.
- Use high-efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA).
- Clean air filters frequently and air ducts at least once a year.
In the Car
- Keep windows closed.
- Set the air conditioner to use recirculated air.
- Minimize walks in wooded areas or gardens.
- Stay indoors as much as possible on hot, dry, windy days when pollen counts
- Stay indoors between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen counts are usually
- Wear a mask when mowing the lawn or gardening.
- Don't hang linens or clothes out to dry.
In a modern office building, you won't likely encounter pollen, says
Pacheco. "Pollen isn't sticky like cat or dog dander is. It doesn't stick
to your clothes. You don't track it into your office. Once you're inside,
you're not exposed to it."