Allergy Treatment: What Works, What Doesn’t, and When to See the Doctor

young woman comparing labels of medicationsIf you find yourself dreading the budding trees of spring or overwhelmed while staring at shelves of over-the-counter allergy remedies, be reassured that you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 19.2 million adults and 5.2 million children were diagnosed with seasonal allergies in 2018. 

Allergy sufferers know the stuffy nose and itching, watery eyes that come with seasonal allergies can be severe enough to interfere with sleep or lead to sinus infections. While the pharmaceutical industry has produced a host of products targeted to help relieve symptoms, discovering what works for each individual can be tricky. 

These tips can help you make sense of treatment options and know when you should consult a doctor. 


Medication Timing Matters

Many people make the mistake of waiting until they have symptoms to start medications. If you know you suffer from seasonal allergies, begin medicine about two weeks before the start of the allergy season. This helps protect your immune system from the assault of pollen and can prevent or lessen the allergic reaction.


Match the Medicine to Symptoms

There is a dizzying array of allergy medicines at your local drugstore: tablets, nasal sprays, antihistamines, and decongestants. Knowing how to read the labels is important. Here’s how to match the medicine to the symptom.


    • Runny Nose and Itchy Eyes

Antihistamines are your best bet. These include medicines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Claritin (loratadine), Allegra (fexofenadine), and Zyrtec (cetirizine). Some people find more relief with one of these than the other, so you may have to experiment to see what works. 


    • Stuffy Nose or Sinus Congestion

Decongestants can help decrease swelling and inflammation in the nasal airway, which can help you breathe better. Decongestants come in pill and spray form; however, you shouldn’t use the sprays more than three days in a row. Some common decongestants include Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) and Afrin (oxymetazoline). There are also medications such as Claritin-D or Allegra-D that combine a decongestant and antihistamine into one.  People who have high blood pressure or take medication for blood pressure should consult with their doctor before starting a medication like Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) due to risk of this medication elevating blood pressure.

    • Daily or Year-Around Allergies

If you experience allergies daily for more than several weeks at a time or even have allergies year-round, a nasal steroid spray such as Flonase or Nasacort can be more effective than antihistamines. Nasal steroids act early in the allergy process before histamines are even made. It may take a week or two of nasal steroid treatment before you start seeing relief, so ask your doctor if you should take an antihistamine with the nasal steroid initially. 


Nasal Irrigation

Doctors agree that rinsing nasal passages with salt water using a Neti Pot™ or a bulb syringe can help get rid of pollen and irritants, possibly reducing the need for medications. However, be sure to use only distilled, sterile, or boiled water—no tap water. You should also thoroughly clean your irrigation device, drying it with a clean paper towel or letting it air dry. 


When to See a Doctor

If you’re continuing to suffer from allergies despite trying over-the-counter-treatments, or if you are developing complications, it’s time to consult a doctor. Signs you need to make an appointment include:

  • You have symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, cough, or watery eyes that last for more than a month and make it hard for you to work or sleep.
  • You’ve tried over-the-counter drugs and still need more relief.
  • You get a lot of sinus infections, headaches, stuffy nose, or ear infections.
  • You snore or have trouble staying asleep.

A doctor can help make sure you have the right medicine or combination of medicines and determine if you need a prescription medication. Guidance from the doctor can also help you make a complete allergy plan and understand the timing and dosages of medicine. They can also help determine if you would benefit from allergy testing or allergy shots. 


Don’t Suffer. Schedule a Same-Day Appointment with LeBauer

If you’re suffering from allergy symptoms that haven’t responded to over-the-counter medications or have worsening symptoms, the team at LeBauer is ready to help. You can even get a same-day appointment if needed. For a same-day appointment, call the LeBauer location nearest you, or if you’re a current patient, call the office where your provider is located. For appointments that are not same-day, new patients can schedule online with this convenient form and existing patients can schedule online with MyChart


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