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Soothe Your Spring Allergies


If changing your lifestyle does not ease allergy symptoms, consider a second-generation oralantihistamine, such as Claritin or Zyrtec, both of which do not require a prescription. These medications, taken once per day, generally work longer and have fewer side effects than first-generation antihistamines.

If you’re not able to find symptom relief on your own, it may be time to see a doctor. An allergist has the best training and knowledge of all your treatment options, including prescription antihistamines, Nish says.

Your doctor may suggest nasal antihistamines (such as Astelin and Patanase), or an antileukotriene, a class of drugsthat works differently than either antihistamines or steroids.So far,Singulair is the only drug in its class approved to treat allergies.

Prescription eye drops (known as antihistamine/mast cell stabilizers) are also available to treat red, watery eyes resulting from allergies.

Some people respond better to one antihistamine than another. The important thing is to find one that relieves your allergy symptoms and does not make you drowsy.

6. Get Treated for Severe Nasal Congestion

For allergy sufferers whose main symptom is moderate-to-severe nasal congestion, a doctor may prescribe an intranasal steroid spray such as Flonase or Nasonex. “Nasal steroids basically help to decrease the inflammation in the nose and ... make it less sensitive [to] the pollen,” Nish says.

Decongestants such as pseudoephredine (found in Sudafed) or phenylephrine (found in Triaminic) can also help with nasal congestion and sinus headaches. Some combination drugs, such as Allegra-D or Claritin-D, ease nasal congestion and allergy symptoms such as itching and sneezing.

Never take medication without talking with your doctor, not even over-the-counter medicine, Nish says. Some medicines are risky for people with medical conditions. For example, pseudoephredine may put people with high blood pressure at higher risk for heart attack or stroke.

Is It Time to Consider Allergy Shots?

If you have allergy symptoms often, you may want to ask about allergy shots. Allergy shots can desensitize a person’s immune system to the pollen that triggers allergies. Treatment takes about three to five years. People receive gradually increasing doses of allergens over that time.

“Immunotherapy can change your body’s response to grass and weeds, so even after you’ve completed the treatment … there should be long-lasting improvement in your symptoms,” Mosnaim says.

There are health risks associated with allergy shots including, in rare cases, anaphylaxis. One in every 200,000 shots has a potentially life-threatening reaction, Nish says.

“You just have to be careful that you go to someone that has a crash cart,” Mosnaim says. “That you have EpiPens [ephinephrine injections available in case of an anaphylactic reaction]. That they check your dose carefully.”

Reviewed on March 01, 2010

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