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Allergies Health Center

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Blocking Allergy Symptoms: How Pretreatment Works

Tackle allergies before they start, and you could be breathing a lot easier.

What Is Allergy Pretreatment?

Allergy pretreatment is simple: start taking your medicine a few weeks before the allergy season starts. While they might vary by a week or so from year to year, the pollen seasons are really quite predictable, says Hugh H. Windom, MD, associate clinical professor of immunology at the University of South Florida. So if you know the allergens that trigger your allergies, getting a jump on them should be easy.

“The sooner you get on your medicine, the better,” Windom says. What type of medicine works best for pretreatment of allergies? That depends on your case.

“There’s no ideal drug for preventing allergy symptoms,” Windom says. “Choosing the best drug depends a lot on what worked for you in the past.”

Any allergy medicine can work as pretreatment, more or less. Antihistamines are an excellent choice, experts say. Examples of over-the-counter antihistamines are Benadryl or Claritin. Prescription antihistamines, like the nasal spray Astelin, are another option. Other allergy medicines that work in different ways, such as steroids -- like Flonase, Nasonex, or Veramyst -- can also help.

What if you don’t take the medicine before your symptoms start? Don’t despair. “Being off by a day or two is not a big deal,” Windom tells WebMD. “But don’t wait a whole week, since by then you might already have a cough, and congestion, or worse.”

If you’re pretreating every year, how will you know if you’ve outgrown your allergies?

Don’t worry, says Windom, most adults don’t outgrown chronic allergies. “If you’re in your thirties or forties, and you’ve had an allergy to ragweed pollen for twenty years, it’s not going to be any different next year,” says Windom. Children are an exception, he says, since they can genuinely outgrow allergies.

Obviously, follow your doctor’s directions on how to use your medicine as allergy pretreatment. Typically, you would continue to use it regularly until the season is over.

Preventing Allergy Symptoms: Environmental Control and Allergy Shots

While medicines are important, don’t forget about environmental control. If you can limit your exposure to an allergen, you can prevent or dampen your body’s allergic reaction.

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