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Are You Taking the Right Allergy Medication

When it comes to allergy medicine, there are many options available to alleviate and prevent your symptoms - are you taking the right meds?

Non-stop sneezing, a runny nose, and itching eyes – all tell-tale signs of pesky allergies. Whether you experience them seasonally or year-round, allergies can make you feel pretty miserable. Fortunately, there are many types of allergy medications to help alleviate symptoms.

When selecting the best allergy medicine for you, there are several factors to consider, including your symptoms, how quickly you need relief, and potential side effects.

Understanding Allergy Symptoms & Causes

Your allergy symptoms may last anywhere from a few hours to several months – depending on causes and treatment. For some people, allergy symptoms only surface during certain times of the year but they can also last for a few months; these are seasonal allergies. For those who experience their allergies year-round, these are perennial allergies.

Seasonal allergies tend to be at their peskiest during spring and fall. Depending on where in the U.S. you live, spring allergy season can start as early as February and lasts until the beginning of summer. On the other hand, fall allergy season typically lasts from August to October, peaking during mid-September.

Allergy Causes

Hay fever or allergic rhinitis refers to symptoms that affect the nose. This is usually caused by environmental allergens, such as:

  • Pollen from trees or grass
  • Dust in a house
  • Mold
  • Pet hair

It’s important to note that sometimes certain foods you might be allergic to can also trigger an immune response – but these rarely lead to perennial allergies.

Allergy Symptoms

Naturally, allergy symptoms vary from person to person, but the most common ones include:

  • Itchy eyes or skin
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes

Related Read: How to Deal with Throat Congestion

Allergy Medication Options

Certain types may work better than others, depending on how long your symptoms last. Here are the three most common medicines to consider. 

Antihistamines

If your allergies only appear once in a while, like when you have a random encounter with your friend’s cat or seasonally when the pollen count is higher, then antihistamines are probably your best bet.

When we come into contact with something we’re allergic to, our immune system releases histamines into our bodies. Histamine is a chemical that triggers allergy symptoms, like a runny nose or itchy eyes. Antihistamines work by blocking areas of your body where histamines would normally attach to cause these symptoms.

Most people take antihistamines to alleviate their allergy symptoms as needed, but daily use of antihistamines should only be considered if recommended by medical professionals.

In the instance of seasonal allergies, antihistamines can also be used ahead of time before you’re exposed to allergy triggers like pollen. Starting the medication two weeks before allergy season may help keep your symptoms at bay – especially if you frequently suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms.

It’s important to consider that antihistamines can cause drowsiness, but there are options available with less sedating effects.

Source: Towfiqu Barbhuiya

Nasal Steroids

If you suffer from daily or year-round allergies, you might want to explore nasal steroids to alleviate your symptoms. As far as allergy medication goes, intranasal steroids are usually recommended as the first treatment choice for people experiencing persistent allergy symptoms.

Nasal steroids work by acting early. When you experience allergies, a complicated series of reactions occur in your immune system between the instant you encounter an allergen and when you get that runny nose. Nasal steroids act before histamine is made, preventing the processes that lead to total allergic responses.

Although they take longer to work when compared with antihistamines, healthcare providers consider nasal steroids to be the most effective maintenance therapy for nasal allergies and are better at keeping nasal congestion under control.

Decongestants

Decongestants help improve symptoms by relieving nasal and sinus congestion, and usually work within 30 minutes.

Decongestants help you breathe easier if you’re congested, but they should not be taken long term. It’s important to know that certain nasal decongestant sprays can worsen your congestion if used for more than a few days – this is called rebound congestion. So, it’s best to use them sparingly.

In addition, oral decongestants, like Sudafed, also shouldn’t be used if you have certain heart conditions, including high blood pressure. So, if you have underlying health conditions, talk to a healthcare provider first before considering them.

Some allergy medicines combine both decongestants and antihistamines into the same pill to target congestion and other allergy symptoms at the same time.

Related Read: 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Athsma

Allergy Medication Side Effects

As with any kind of medication, allergy medicines may cause certain side effects. Here are some of the potential side effects the different kinds of allergy medications can cause:

Nasal Steroids

Nasal steroid sprays very rarely cause serious side effects because the body absorbs only small amounts of this medication. However, they do carry the risk of nasal tissue inflammation, which is why it’s important to have regular check-ups with a medical professional if you’re using these kinds of allergy medicines for long periods.

Decongestants

Decongestants aren’t associated with drowsiness. In fact, the opposite – these allergy medicines can keep you up at night. If you’re having trouble sleeping with short-term use, you should talk to a doctor about considering other options for quick relief.

First-Generation Antihistamines

Older, OTC first-generation antihistamines often cause drowsiness. These allergy medications work quickly to control symptoms, but they can get into your brain and cause drowsiness, as well as other neurological symptoms – like difficulty concentrating.

Second-Generation Antihistamines

With newer, second-generation antihistamines, there’s less of an issue with brain-related side effects because they’re less likely to enter the brain.

Other possible side effects of second-generation antihistamines include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ear

Allergy Medication Alternatives

There are also alternative therapies to allergy medication, including herbal remedies. Here are a few to consider, but alternative therapies should only be used under the direction of a trained healthcare professional. You should always chat to your doctor before deciding on any allergy medication alternatives.

Vitamin C

A common go-to when you’re feeling under the weather, vitamin C not only boosts the immune system but also acts as a natural antihistamine.

A 2018 study on vitamin C in the treatment of allergies observed that it might act as a treatment since the vitamin is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. In the study, researchers noted that high doses of vitamin C reduced allergy symptoms, and a deficiency in vitamin C could even lead to allergy-related illnesses.

Vitamin C is present in many fruits and vegetables, including:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Kiwifruit
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Winter squash

Butterbur

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), butterbur may have antihistamine effects. Butterbur is a plant extract from a shrub that grows in Europe, Asia, and some parts of North America.

A 2007 review suggests butterbur could be an effective herbal treatment for hay fever. And was considered better than a placebo or as effective as antihistamine medications for relieving allergy symptoms.

Bromelain

Pineapple juice contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain. It’s found in both the core and juice of pineapples and is also available in supplement form. It’s a popular natural remedy for swelling or inflammation, especially of the sinuses. Research on mice suggests bromelain can reduce allergic sensitization and allergic airway disease thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. Of course, people who are allergic to pineapple should avoid bromelain.

Probiotics

These are microorganisms that could offer benefits by helping the body maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Probiotics may boost a person’s immune system, which can help the body fight allergies. The NCCIH says the evidence is mixed and some probiotics may help while others might not.

Source: Daily Nouri

Quercetin

An antioxidant flavonoid found in many plants and foods, research suggests that adding quercetin to your diet may help alleviate allergy symptoms. There are even reports that quercetin can have anti-allergic and antihistamine properties. Evidence on its effectiveness is mixed and according to the NCCIH, there’s not enough to suggest that it can relieve allergic rhinitis completely.

Quercetin is naturally present in many foods and herbs, like:

  • Berries
  • Black tea
  • Broccoli
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Green tea
  • Peppers
  • Red onions
  • Red wine

However, taking quercetin supplements will be more effective in treating allergies than eating foods that contain it.

Nasal Washes

Using a saline solution (salt water) in a neti-pot or a squeeze bottle can help you rinse out your sinuses. Make sure you use distilled or sterile water. If you use tap water, boil it and let it cool off.

Immunotherapy

People suffering from severe allergies may benefit from immunotherapy. This treatment is also suitable if allergy medications don’t alleviate symptoms. During immunotherapy, healthcare professionals give people a series of injections that contain tiny amounts of the allergen. The treatment may take place over several years and aims to desensitize the body to the allergen. For people with pollen allergies, doctors may even recommend sublingual immunotherapy – which involves placing a tablet under the tongue until it dissolves.

Acupuncture

During this ancient Chinese therapy, an expert sticks tiny needles gently and painlessly into your skin at specific points. Acupuncture may be a reasonable option for interested patients with relatively mild symptoms. It’s thought that one reason for allergies is a weak adrenal system, and acupuncture is used to support those glands. It’s also recommended that you get plenty of exercise and sleep in conjunction with acupuncture.

If you would prefer to speak to professional before choosing any allergy medication, you can book an appointment on the Air Doctor app.

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Jenny Cohen Drefler

Jenny Cohen Derfler

Air Dr CEO & Co-Founder

Jenny is the CEO and one of the Co-Founders at Air Doctor. She spent more than 20 years at Intel, most recently as general manager of its manufacturing facility in Israel and before that in various engineering and manufacturing roles in Silicon Valley. Air Doctor is her second startup having previously founded electric vehicle company ElectRoad.