Spring has arrived. For the millions of Americans who receive an allergy diagnosis each year, that means runny noses, sneezing, and watery eyes aren't too far behind.
While there is no cure for seasonal allergies, treatment of your symptoms is possible. A number of allergy medications are available, and they each provide relief in different ways. So how do you know which one is right for you?
Selecting the right allergy medication depends on several factors, such as the severity of your symptoms, what causes your allergies, and whether or not you have other health conditions.
When you come into contact with an allergen, your body produces chemicals called histamines, which cause nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, and itchiness. Antihistamines work by blocking histamines and providing relief from these common allergy symptoms. They are beneficial in fighting seasonal allergies caused by pollen, grasses, or weeds.
Some antihistamines are available by prescription only, but others can be purchased over-the-counter. They come in the form of pills, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops.
Antihistamines that you can purchase over the counter include:
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Fexofenadine (Allegra)
- Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- Levocetirizine (Xyzal)
Prescription antihistamines include:
Antihistamines may cause drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and confusion. They may also interact with other medications. Talk to your doctor if you experience any adverse reactions or if you are taking other medications.
Some of the antihistamine medications listed above also come in variations that contain decongestants. Exposure to allergens causes the tissues in your nasal passages to swell, which makes you feel stuffy and congested. Decongestants relieve sinus pressure and congestion by narrowing the blood vessels in your nose. If you aren't experiencing any other allergy symptoms, decongestants may give you some relief.
Some of the most common oral decongestants are:
- Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
- Phenylephrine (Sudafed PE)
- Fexofenadine and pseudoephedrine (Allegra-D)
- Loratadine and pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D)
While many decongestants can be purchased without a prescription, they may only be available behind the counter, and you may have to show a valid photo I.D. when purchasing them.
Side effects of decongestants include increased blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, and irritability. They are not recommended for people with heart disease, high blood pressure, or hyperthyroidism.
Corticosteroids are a type of anti-inflammatory drug. They can be used to treat symptoms for all kinds of allergic reactions, not just seasonal allergies. They are available in the form of pills, nasal sprays, eye drops, inhalers, and topical creams.
Corticosteroids in the form of nasal sprays can take some time to kick in, so it is best to begin using them early if you anticipate allergy symptoms.
A list of corticosteroids that treat allergies include:
- Budesonide (Entocort)
- Fluticasone propionate (Flonase Allergy Relief)
- Prednisone (Rayos)
- Mometasone (Nasonex)
- Hydrocortisone (Locoid)
Corticosteroids are not recommended for long-term use. Using nasal sprays for longer than a few days can cause nose bleeds, vision changes, headaches, and eye pain. Long-term use of oral corticosteroids can cause increased blood pressure, cataracts, stomach ulcers, and muscle weakness.
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