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Seasonal Allergies: 4 Routes to Relief

Whether your fall allergy symptoms are mild or miserable, here's help.

3. Get Proper Treatment

An allergist or your primary care doctor can recommend a variety of medications, some over-the-counter and some needing a prescription, to improve your seasonal allergies. Many are approved for use in children. A home remedy, nasal lavage, may help, too.

Topical nasal sprays, available by prescription, work well, says Georgeson.  "They actually reduce the inflammation in the lining of the nose," she says. Examples are Flonase and Nasonex. They contain medications called corticosteroids, which work by reducing inflammation and are "minimally if at all absorbed," she says. The sprays are typically used daily, before and during allergy season.

Oral antihistamines are another option. Some, such as Allegra and Claritin (and generic loratadine), are now over the counter, Georgeson says, while others, such as Zyrtec and Clarinex, are by prescription.

 A newer option is Astelin, a nasal spray antihistamine.

Antihistamines are often recommended along with topical nasal corticosteroids, Georgeson says. Antihistamines work by preventing more histamine (a chemical released during an allergic reaction) from being released.

Prescription eye drops can help itchy eyes.

Another option is the medication Singulair, also used to treat asthma, which works by blocking leukotrienes, substances which help cause allergy symptoms. 

Nasal irrigation or lavage may help, too.

Many over-the-counter allergy options contain a combination of drug ingredients that may include a decongestant. Decongestants may elevate blood pressure and heart rate, so check in with your doctor to make sure that it is OK for you to take these.

A longer-term solution is immunotherapy, or allergy shots. Tiny amounts of the allergen are injected over time, provoking an antibody response. "It actually changes a person's immune system," Georgeson says. But it takes time. "Generally most physicians will treat from three to five years," she says.

"Allergy injections are used more often in adults than kids," says Ronald Ferdman, MD, attending physician at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. "Allergies change in kids. They could get worse or better, and they could get sensitive to different allergens. Most of the time they get worse."

Under development is "sublingual" allergy therapy, says Bassett. Tiny amounts of the allergen are placed under the tongue, using the same concept as the allergy shots but with a different and more convenient delivery system.

4. Beware of Foods That Trigger Your Symptoms

If you have seasonal allergies to ragweed, be aware that eating certain foods may trigger your symptoms. "This is the concept of oral allergy syndrome," Bassett says.

It's a double-whammy, he says. About one-third of people with fall seasonal allergies will have a cross-reaction to certain foods, he says. Foods that might provoke symptoms in those with ragweed allergies, according to AAAAI, include bananas, cucumbers, melons, zucchini, sunflower seeds, and chamomile tea.

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Reviewed on January 05, 2010

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