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Allergy Relief: Getting Familiar With Allergy Medicines

Which allergy medicines are best for your needs?
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WebMD Feature

If you're tired of suffering with nasal allergies and need ongoing allergy relief, maybe it's time to review the different allergy medicines available and find the best ones for your allergy symptoms.

Allergic rhinitis (allergies) affects up to 40% of children and 10% to 30% of adults in the United States today.

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While some allergy sufferers experience an occasional sniffle, sneeze, or runny nose, allergies can cause miserable and sometimes serious symptoms such as fatigue, headache, itchy eyes, and even asthma symptoms.

When these symptoms continue for weeks without any allergy relief, they can result in missed time from work or school, lower productivity, and even health problems like sinus infections and sinus pain.

Is it any wonder that nasal allergies, particularly at night, can keep you from feeling your best and being productive?

Why do you get allergies?

If you want to place any blame, go ahead and put it on your parents. It's true.  Allergies are a genetic disease, says William E. Berger, MD, MBA, professor of medicine at the University of California, and the sneezing, itching, and nasal congestion run in families. When one parent has allergies about 25% of the time a child will develop allergies, also. When both parents have allergies, there's at least a 50% chance that their children will have allergies.

You can also blame your miserable allergy symptoms on histamines, the chemicals in the body that cause swelling of the mucosal membranes and increased mucus production.

Histamines are released quickly in response to contact with an allergen (the substance you're allergic to). Once the histamines get released, they do their damage big time and result in a host of allergy symptoms (ongoing sneezing, weepy eyes, itchy nose, and nasal stuffiness).

What's the best way to get allergy relief?

According to Berger, author of Allergies and Asthma for Dummies,the best way to treat nasal allergies is with prevention. 

First, get a skin test to find out which allergens -- such as dust, pollen, mold, and pet dander -- are triggering your allergic reaction. Try to clear those allergens out of your indoor environment, and away from your yard as much as possible.

If you still have symptoms, it's time to turn to allergy medicines.

Berger explains that the first line of allergy treatment is inhaled nasal corticosteroids. Inhaled nasal steroids decrease inflammation and reduce mucus formation, so you have fewer allergy symptoms. 

"You need to start about two weeks before pollen season with the inhaled nasal corticosteroids," Berger explains, "and possibly stay on the inhaled allergy medicine for months, if you have ongoing nasal allergies."

Are there other allergy medicines that can prevent allergy symptoms?

Consider intranasal (inhaled) antihistamines. These medicines can give allergy relief of the sneezing and itchy nose without the drowsy feeling you might get by taking (older) oral antihistamines, Murray Grossan, MD, tells WebMD.

This Los-Angeles based ENT, inventor of the Grossan Hydro Pulse Nasal Irrigator, and author of The Sinus Cure, says you can also try to prevent allergy symptoms with over-the-counter nasal sprays that contain mast cell inhibitors (such as NasalCrom). "These allergy medicines need several days to give good allergy relief and must be started a few weeks before contact with allergens."

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