Allergic rhinitis is the most common allergic disease in America, and
what that means is you have inflammation of your nasal passages.
The original name for allergic rhinitis was hay fever, and that's still commonly used.
So the symptoms of allergic rhinitis are nasal
congestion -- that's actually the most common,
chief complaint that patients have; runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing, itchy watery eyes.
The most helpful medication for allergic rhinitis are nasal
sprays. You can have nasal steroids and nasal antihistamines.
Another class of medications that are helpful are oral antihistamines.
So histamine is a chemical that your body produces in response to an allergic trigger.
Antihistamines will block the histamine from causing your symptoms.
It's important to start antihistamines and nasal steroids before your allergies really get
severe. So for at least several days or even up
to a couple weeks prior to your allergy season.
If you plan on visiting a home that you know has a pet or think there's a
good chance there may be a pet there and you want to prevent your symptoms,
then you want to take an antihistamine at least an hour before you go over to the
house or start using some nasal sprays several days before you go to the house.
Most antihistamines are sold on the pharmacy shelves without a prescription.
But it's important to know that oral antihistamines do not improve congestion.
Decongestants actually shrink the blood vessels in your nose
that reduces the stuffiness and reduces the mucus production.
Oral decongestants are what we usually recommend.
In most states, they're actually sold behind the counter but without a prescription.
Nasal decongestants are excellent drugs to be used for a few days.
The idea behind nasal irrigation, which just means
washing the nose with a saline spray or using a
pot, is that you're actually washing away the allergens
that could be stuck and trapped in the nose.
There's no drug in there, it's just salt water.
So talk to your allergist about medications, home remedies,
lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce your symptoms.