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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.

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.

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.

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