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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.

Are antihistamines addictive too?

Here's one rumor that is not true. "People may be worried about antihistamines being addictive," says Kao. "But we are concrete on this one -- there is no way they are addictive."

But while you won't get hooked on allergy medications such as antihistamines, either over-the-counter or prescription strength, you could build up a tolerance to them, he explains. The solution? Rotate the types of over-the-counter medications you take to ensure they give you the most bang for your buck.

"If you build up a tolerance, it will happen after about three months or so," says Kao. "When you notice your symptoms coming back, switch to a different brand or type of allergy medication for a while until you either get through the season or lower your tolerance back to normal after a few months."

I love the outdoors. How can I enjoy the warm weather with my allergies?

The trick to planting flowers or mowing the lawn on a pleasant spring day is not to treat your allergy symptoms, but to prevent them before they kick in.

"Pretreat your allergies with an antihistamine about a half-hour before your day begins to avoid an allergy attack altogether and minimize your suffering," says Enright.

And don't be caught unprepared. Be sure to have "rescue" medications such as eyedrops and decongestants on standby -- just in case.

When do I need prescription allergy medication?

You've jumped through hoops to manage your springtime allergies. You started with an allergy test to pinpoint your triggers, you've kept a watchful eye on pollen counts to avoid outdoor activities when the numbers spike, you've been taking extra showers when needed and doing laundry nonstop, and you've tried several over-the-counter allergy treatments. Your efforts, however, are not producing results, and you're still suffering from all the classic spring allergy symptoms. It's time to see your primary care doctor or an allergist.

"The next step is to try prescription-strength medications," says Kao. "Once you get started, you should have your allergies under control in just a week or two." Does this mean you can put your laundry soap away? Not quite, explains Kao. You still need to be vigilant in managing your allergies on your own, but now you can do it with prescription strength on your side.

Some of the prescription medications in your doctor's allergy war chest are:

Antihistamines, such as Claritin, Zyrtec (note: these two are the same formulations as the over-the-counter versions), and Allegra, which block the release of histamine, a chemical that can cause redness, swelling, and itching.

Nasal steroids, including Beconase, Flonase, Nasacort, Nasonex, Rhinocort, and Veramyst, which reduce inflammation and prevent and treat nasal stuffiness, sneezing, and itchy, runny nose brought on by seasonal or year-round allergies.

Leukotriene modifiers, such as Singular, which work by blocking the effects of leukotrienes, chemicals produced in the body in response to an allergen.

All of these medications should be used as directed by your doctor, who will talk to you about how often, for how long, and at what dose you should take your allergy meds.

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