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How to Survive Spring Allergy Season

Top allergy experts answer the 10 most pressing questions on treatment, care, and prevention of spring allergies.

How can I manage my allergies using over-the-counter medication? continued...

"Over-the-counter nasal sprays are extremely effective, but they are also extremely addictive," says Jeffrey M. Factor, MD, an allergist and immunologist at the Connecticut Asthma & Allergy Center in West Hartford.

Your nose becomes dependent on the nasal spray and stops working the way it should when the spray is overused, he explains. This causes rebound congestion -- meaning the medication loses power the more you use it. When the spray stops working, the congestion comes back with a vengeance. If you're hooked, prescription nasal steroids can help you kick the habit and improve your congestion during the spring allergy season.

How can you tell if an over-the-counter nasal spray might be long-term trouble? Check the label for a warning -- if it says "don't use the spray for more than three days at a time," pay attention.

Beyond medication, what can I do to manage my allergies?

First, think practically: Try to avoid your triggers altogether by keeping your windows closed, even on an inviting spring day. That's when allergen levels are at their peak. Next, take a shower after you've spent time outdoors.

"After you come inside on a nice spring day, you are literally covered in allergens," says Kao. "You track it through your house, and worse, you get in bed covered with the pollen or grass spores that make you congested. Guess what? Now you are going to lie in it for eight hours and wake up feeling miserable."

Allergens such as pollen tend to stick to fabrics, which means you can deposit allergens from your clothes on your furniture, on your pillow, and on the people around you. All of a sudden the safe haven of your home is as allergy-ridden as the outdoors.

So wash your bedding, your pajamas, and your clothes as often as possible to rid them of troublesome allergens during the spring season.

What about the natural and alternative remedies I hear about: Do any work?

If you're looking for a home-remedy approach for your springtime allergies, start simple: A saltwater nose spray can be a springtime allergy sufferer's all-natural ally.

"Mix 8 ounces of water with half a teaspoon of table salt in a squirt bottle," says Enright. "You can use this every morning when you wake up and in the evening to clear the allergens out of your nose." You can also buy a saline-solution nose spray at your local drugstore if you don't feel like whipping it up yourself.

What about other alternative remedies for spring allergies? Acupuncture, homeopathy, and herbal treatments are possible solutions to your spring allergy symptoms, but more research is needed first for a solid recommendation.

Some studies do show promise, especially with acupuncture. In a study of children with hay fever published in the November 2004 issue of Pediatrics, those who received acupuncture twice a week for eight weeks showed fewer symptoms and more symptom-free days -- both during treatment and for about 10 weeks after -- than the kids who did not receive acupuncture.

If you are considering an alternative therapy for your spring allergies, start by talking to your doctor.

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