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    How to Handle Your Spring Allergies

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    Over-the-Counter and Prescription Allergy Treatments continued...

    Decongestants shrink the blood vessels in the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling.

    Antihistamine/decongestant combos combine the effects of both drugs.

    Nasal spray decongestants relieve congestion and may clear clogged nasal passages faster than oral decongestants without some of the side effects.

    Steroid nasal sprays ease inflammation and are the preferred initial treatment. Only three, budesonide (RhinocortAllergy), fluticasone (Flonase), and triamcinolone (Nasacort Allergy 24HR), are available over the counter. Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can help prevent hay fever by stopping the release of histamine before it can trigger allergy symptoms.

    Eye drops relieve itchy, watery eyes. Ketotifen (Zaditor) is available over the counter.

    Even though you can buy these allergy drugs without a prescription, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first to make sure you choose the right medication. Some antihistamines can make you feel sleepy, so be careful if you take them during the day. Non-drowsy types are also available. If you feel like you need over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants for more than a few days, talk to your doctor.

    Have you tried OTC remedies and need something more? Your doctor may recommend a prescription medication, allergy shots, or under-the-tongue immunotherapy tablets. Many steroid nasal sprays are available by prescription too.

    Immunotherapy gives you gradually increasing doses of the allergen until your body can handle it. The treatment can relieve your symptoms for a longer time than other types of allergy medications. Although it doesn’t work for everyone, it can stave off some people's symptoms for a few years.

    Are There Natural Remedies for Allergies?

    Nasal irrigation uses a combination of warm water, about a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda to clear out mucus and open sinus passages. You can use a squeeze bottle or a neti pot, which looks like a small teapot. Use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry.

    Some others have mixed research on how much they help:

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