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Allergies Health Center

Allergy Relief: Getting Familiar With Allergy Medicines

Which allergy medicines are best for your needs?
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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."

What about antihistamines or decongestants?

Antihistamines cannot reverse the histamine-charged nasal allergy symptoms, Berger says. Antihistamines block the receptors -- the tissues that cause swelling -- to help prevent future symptoms. But they can undo the miserable allergy symptoms you may be experiencing the moment you take them.

Decongestants, another common allergy medicine, can relieve nasal congestion and nasal stuffiness. But, again, decongestants relieve existing problems, and don't prevent congestion.

"It takes several days to reverse any nasal allergy symptoms," Berger says, "So preventing allergies is the most effective way to get allergy relief."

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