Your allergist will conduct a thorough history and physical examination
and may recommend skin testing. Skin testing helps determine which
allergens you're most sensitive to. Allergy blood tests also may be
used. Your doctor then can design a treatment program specifically for
Medications to treat hay fever include:
These medications counteract histamine, an inflammatory substance
released when your immune system encounters an allergen.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines that have been available for
many years include diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton).
These drugs may relieve your itching eyes and nose, but they often
cause drowsiness and dehydration. Loratadine (Claritin), recently
made available over-the-counter, doesn't cause these side effects.
However, it may not be effective for everyone. Ask your doctor about
prescription antihistamines, including fexofenadine (Allegra) and
cetirizine (Zyrtec), if your symptoms persist. Both drugs are
relatively nonsedating, but Zyrtec may cause drowsiness in some
people. Although antihistamines usually can keep you from sneezing,
they're not quite as effective for your clogged nose.
These medications, often used in combination with antihistamines,
are available in liquid, tablet and nasal spray forms both with and
without a prescription. Don't use OTC nasal sprays for more than a
few days in a row because continued use can actually cause nasal
congestion, referred to as rebound congestion.
These medications block the action of leukotrienes, which can cause
hay fever symptoms. Montelukast (Singulair) is a tablet taken once a
Nasalcrom, a nasal spray containing the anti-inflammatory agent
cromolyn sodium, is available without a prescription. One advantage
of using Nasalcrom is that it has few side effects even for children
as young as 6. However, many people find Nasalcrom only modestly
effective in controlling symptoms.
For more troublesome symptoms, corticosteroid nasal sprays, such as
beclomethasone (Beconase), fluticasone (Flonase), triamcinolone
(Nasacort), budesonide (Rhinocort), flunisolide (Nasarel, Nasalide)
and mometasone (Nasonex), can help you breathe better. These
corticosteroid nasal sprays are the most effective treatment for hay
fever. An occasional bothersome side effect for some people is
irritation of the nasal passages. These nasal sprays can take three
to 10 days to provide maximum relief, so start them before the
season hits or on the first day of your symptoms. Give them an
adequate trial, as you can't expect results after the first day of
use. Corticosteroid nasal sprays can do wonders for your nose, but
may not relieve your itchy eyes.
Drops containing antihistamines or decongestants can help relieve
itchy eyes. Both OTC and prescription eyedrops are available.
If you are taking any other medications or have a chronic health
condition, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before starting these
therapies, to be sure you're not at risk of a drug interaction or other
If medications don't relieve your hay fever symptoms or if your symptoms
are chronic, allergy shots (immunotherapy) may help you. The solutions
given in allergy shots contain a small amount of the substances
(allergens) to which you're allergic. Slowly increasing the dose of the
allergy shot over time allows you to become desensitized to the
allergy-causing substance. Ask your doctor whether allergy shots are
right for you. You generally need to get the shots regularly for one to
two years for maximum benefit, although most people begin to experience
significant relief and reduced need for medication within one year of
beginning the shots.
It's not possible to completely avoid allergens, but you can reduce your
symptoms by minimizing exposure. If you're allergic to pollen or molds,
follow these tips:
Keep your windows
and doors closed and air conditioning on at home and in your car
during your allergy season.
Use a good air
filter at home.
Run a dehumidifier
at home to reduce humidity, which may allow mold to grow.
during the pollen season.
Keep your house
especially clean during the pollen season to reduce levels of pollen
Avoid mowing the
lawn or raking leaves — which stirs up both pollens and molds — as
much as possible.
If you're allergic to dust mites:
encasements on your mattress and pillows.
Repair any water
or moisture problems in your home.
Run an air
conditioner with an allergy-type filter to lower humidity and filter
carpeting in your home if you're highly sensitive to dust mites.
If you're allergic to pets:
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