Follow a simple, three-step plan to help you get through your workday without reaching for a tissue every few minutes.
No. 1. Get a diagnosis. You need to learn what triggers your symptoms. That way you can avoid them or find the best treatment. Start with your primary-care doctor, who may send you to an allergist for testing.
No. 2. Tweak your surroundings. Do your best to clear your office of things you're allergic to. Get rid of chair cushions that can attract dust mites. Bring in a portable filter for pollen or pet dander that may be hanging in the air. Make sure it's the right size for your workspace. Eat inside on days when you know the pollen count is high. Also, ask your office manager if it's possible to put in high-efficiency filters (MRV11 or MRV12) for the air system and to replace carpet in your office or cubicle.
No. 3. Choose the right medicine. If you have moderate to severe allergies, you probably need to take medications. Antihistamines are the first-line treatment. They're good if you've got a runny nose and itchy eyes. They come in pills, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops. Some have fewer side effects than others. Ask your doctor for suggestions. The key is to start taking antihistamines early in the allergy season, not when your symptoms are full-blown.
You can try eye drops for itchy eyes or nasal sprays if you're all stuffed up. But you don't want to use over-the-counter decongestant sprays for more than 3 days in a row. If you do, it can make your symptoms worse.
Nasal steroid sprays are available without a prescription. Studies show that using them daily before and during the pollen season can help control allergies. They are especially good for congestion and post-nasal drip. If you don't feel better after trying over-the-counter medicines, talk to your doctor about allergy shots. They take a much longer time to work but can help ease your symptoms in the long run.
You can also try a saline solution to ease nasal congestion.