Where do you turn for relief when your allergies are in full bloom? You can start by reducing your exposure to the offending allergens but you also may need some sort of medication to keep your symptoms under control. These days your options are plentiful.
Antihistamines and decongestants are usually the first line of defense for allergies. Antihistamines relieve sneezing, itching and runny nose while decongestants reduce nasal stuffiness. Both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) versions are available, and some provide a decongestant/antihistamine combination. Be wary of the combination ones if you tend to get jittery taking medications with pseudo ephedrine sulfate. The side effects can be brutal, including sleeplessness, if you are sensitive.
Try some of the OTC ones first since many antihistamines that were formerly prescription only are now available without a prescription. Among these are Claritin and Zyrtec. However, individuals who need to take medication on a daily basis throughout the allergy season may save money by getting a prescription.
OTC decongestant sprays and nose drops are available as well to reduce stuffiness but never use them more than three to five days in a row. If used more than the recommended time, your congestion will become worse because of a “rebound effect.”
Corticosteroid nasal sprays are another option for allergy sufferers without the “rebound effect” of non-prescription decongestant sprays. They work by reducing the inflammation that causes nasal congestion. Long-term use beyond three months may lead to chronic irritation, inflammation and increased mucus secretion.
Cromolyn sodium is similar in effect to corticosteroid sprays but can be used over longer periods of time. It comes in a nasal spray (Nasalcrom) and eyedrops (Opticrom).
Oral corticosteroids, such as Prednisone, may be used to reduce inflammation and stop severe allergic reactions but have serious side effects.
An intranasal antihistamine, Astelin Nasal Spray, is a fairly recent arrival on the allergy scene. It is prescribed to individuals whose primary symptom is a runny nose without congestion.
Leukotriene inhibitors such as Singular may be used for treating allergies. These inhibitor drugs keep the bronchial tubes from contricting. Some researchers have found this type of medicine to be almost as effective as steroids without the serious side effects.