Keep Your Spring Sneeze-Free!

Learn about spring allergy treatment options so you can enjoy the outdoors!Spring is in full swing, that means many are sniffling and sneezing and undoubtedly suffering from seasonal allergies! While avoidance therapy may control allergy symptoms, many allergy sufferers will require treatment. There are two types of allergy treatment: Medication (that is self-administered) and Allergy Injection Therapy.

There are several medications available to help manage allergy symptoms. Allergy medications reduce your reaction to allergens. Here’s a summary of various types of allergy medications.

Antihistamines block histamine, an inflammatory chemical released by your immune system during an allergic reaction:

  • Oral antihistamines treat symptoms such as swelling, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and hives. Over-the-counter oral antihistamines include Claritin and Zyrtec. Older forms of antihistamines, such as Benedryl, can be sedating and shouldn’t be taken when driving or doing other potentially dangerous activities.
  • Antihistamine nasal sprays help relieve sneezing, itchy or runny nose, sinus congestion, and postnasal drip. Prescription antihistamine nasal sprays include Astelin. Side effects of antihistamine nasal spray may include bitter taste, dizziness, dry mouth, headache, nasal burning, nosebleed, nausea, runny nose, and sore throat.
  • Eye drops can reduce itching, redness and swollen eyes. You may need to use these medications several times a day, as the effects may last only a few hours. Over-the-counter examples include Zaditor, Alaway, Visine-A, and Opcon-A. Prescription examples include Albalon, Emadine, and Patanol. Side effects of these medications can include red eyes, watering eyes, headache, and mild stinging or burning.

Decongestants are used for quick, temporary relief of nasal and sinus congestion. You should avoid decongestants if you have hypertension, heart problems, or if you are pregnant.

  • Oral decongestants relieve nasal and sinus congestion. Many decongestants are available over-the-counter. Examples include Sudafed (pseudoephedrine). Side effects include irritability, palpitations dizziness, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, tremors and increased blood pressure. Check with your doctor before using oral decongestants.
  • Nasal decongestant sprays also relieve nasal and sinus congestion. Examples include Neo-Synephrine and Afrin. Nasal decongestants can cause nasal dryness, and burning. Nasal decongestants can cause irritability, palpitations, dizziness, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, tremors and increased blood pressure. Using nasal decongestants for more than three days can cause rebound congestion when you stop them.
  • Decongestant eye drops can temporarily relieve symptoms of red, itchy eyes. Over-the-counter examples include Visine and Clear Eyes. They are generally not recommended for long-term use as it can damage blood vessels in the eye. Rarely, this medication causes a type of sudden (acute) glaucoma.

Corticosteroids help prevent and treat inflammation by blocking allergic reactions. Most corticosteroids require a prescription.

  • Corticosteroid skin creams relieve the scaling and itching caused by eczema. They are available as prescription and over-the-counter. Side effects can include skin irritation and discoloration.
  • Nasal sprays prevent and relieve symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, sneezing, and itchy, runny nose. Examples include Nasonex, Flonase, and Rhinocort. Side effects can include unpleasant smell or taste, nasal irritation, and nosebleeds.
  • Inhaled corticosteroids are used to relieve asthma symptoms. Examples include Aerobid, Azmacort, Flovent and Pulmacort. Side effects can include an infection in the mouth, cough, hoarseness or headache.
  • Eye drops are used to treat symptoms such as red, watery and itchy eyes caused by hay fever and allergic conjunctivitis. Prolonged use may increase your risk of eye infections, glaucoma and cataracts.
  • Oral corticosteroids (pills and liquids) are used to treat severe symptoms caused by all types of allergic reactions. Long-term use can cause cataracts, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and delayed growth in children. Singulair is a prescription medication that blocks leukotrienes, which is important cause of allergy symptoms. Side effects can include upper respiratory infections, headache, ear infection and sore throat in children. The FDA has warned that these medications could possibly cause psychological symptoms, such as irritability, anxiousness, insomnia, hallucinations, aggression, depression, suicidal thinking and suicidal behavior.

Immunotherapy injections (allergy shots) is the only way that allergy suffers can cure there symptoms long term. Over a several year period, the patient receives shots containing allergen extracts. The goal is to desensitize you to specific allergens and decrease or eliminate your need for medications. Immunotherapy may be especially effective if you’re allergic to cat dander, dust mites, or pollen produced by trees, grass and weeds.

As you can tell, there are many options that are available to you. It’s especially important to talk to your doctor about taking allergy medications if:

  • You’re pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • You are treating allergies in a child.
  • You have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, glaucoma or high blood pressure.
  • You’re taking any other medications including herbal supplements.

Even over-the-counter allergy medications have side effects, and some allergy medications can cause problems when combined with certain other medications. You should discuss these options with your physician to help you decide which medications would be right for you.

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