Have your allergies kicked in? Here is some information to help out during the next 1-2 months.
First don’t forget some basic measures like allergen avoidance and nasal saline rinses. Some basic measures for reduction of pollen exposure include wearing sunglasses while outside, driving with windows closed, showering before bed, keeping bedroom windows closed and an air filter running, and avoidance of prolonged outdoor time during the height of the season.
For allergy symptoms there are a variety of over the counter medications and prescription medicines that can help. I’ve outlined some of the basic classes of medicines used to treat allergies. The information below can serve as a reference. The best medicine or medicine combination for you depends on your symptoms, medical history, and discussion with your Allergy Care Provider.
We are all most familiar with antihistamine pills or liquids. These medications block the effect of histamines on the tissues of the eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and skin. Histamines are released during an allergy attack and cause people to have itching, sneezing, runny nose, eye swelling, and post nasal drip. Antihistamine pills and liquids are available both over the counter and by prescription. Some non-drowsy “second generation antihistamines” are available over the counter and include Loratadine and Fexofenadine. Cetirizine is generally nonsedating although 10% of people can still feel sleepy when they take it. The over the counter “first generation antihistamines” include Diphenhydramine and Chlorpheniramine. The first generation antihistamines will cause drowsiness.
There are a variety of oral decongestants that are also available over or behind the counter. These medications relieve nasal congestion and sinus pressure. Decongestants can be sold by themselves or put together with antihistamines. Patients with certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease, are advised against taking these medications.
Nasal steroids decrease the allergic inflammation in the nose. Nasal steroids help symptoms of nasal congestion and sinus pressure, post nasal drip, nasal itching and eye itching. Most are available by prescription but over the past year one has gone over the counter. These medications in general take a couple weeks to work their best and must be used correctly to avoid bloody noses.
Nasal antihistamines are available by prescription and can help with nasal congestion, nasal itching, post nasal drip, runny nose and eye itching.
For eye issues there are also several treatments. Artificial tears are helpful in washing out pollens and soothing itchy eyes. Cool compresses also are of benefit. In addition antihistamines and Cromolyn (stabilizes allergic cells) are available in an eye drop form. Some of these eye drops are available over the counter and some are prescription only. These medications treat eye itching, swelling and redness.
Leukotriene modifiers (montelukast) also help reduce the effects of chemicals released during an allergic reaction. These medicines are available by prescription and help with nasal drip, itching, sneezing, and cough. These can also be used for asthma treatment.
On occasion, some people will need a short course of oral steroids to control their symptoms. This treatment is reserved for patients with severe symptoms who have not responded to the usual allergy treatment medicines. This administration of oral steroids requires the supervision of a health care provider.
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