The spring bloom brings sneezes, watery eyes and stuffy noses. Which allergy medicine will work best for you?
It’s here. Pollen counts are expected to top the charts this week, sending many of us scurrying to our local pharmacies to find relief.
So many choices, so little time.
Allergies really begin to flare up in the spring, when trees, plants and flowers are in full bloom,” said Brian DePrest, M.D., family medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates – Dixie.
“The medication you choose needs to be what works best for you with the symptoms you endure,” he said.
Let’s start with antihistamines. True to their name, they block histamine, a symptom-causing chemical released by your immune system during an allergic reaction.
When the pollen count climbs, your histamines leap into action, and you immediately feel the effects: runny nose, watery eyes, scratchy throat and lots sneezing.
An antihistamine puts up a defense by blocking those symptoms — to a degree. The Ohio Valley is famous for extremely high pollen counts, so at times it may feel like your antihistamine isn’t working, according to Dr. DePrest.
“When pollen counts are high, your antihistamine is working. But it is being challenged to its fullest potential. This is a time when you need to take extra measure to survive the allergy season,” he said.
Many antihistamines are over-the-counter pills, such as Zytec and Claritin.
“Most of these are 24-hour pills that you take once a day to help manage symptoms,” Dr. DePrest said. “Benadryl also falls into this category and can be taken in smaller doses, more frequently.”
Those medications also come in liquid form or as a nasal spray. Choosing among them depends on your preference and whether you feel comfortable using a nasal spray.
“For some allergy sufferers, the use of a nasal spray tends to relieve symptoms more quickly, but for others they are simply not comfortable using a nasal spray,” Dr. DePrest said. “There are a few tips to using a nasal spray, such as aiming the spray toward the outer wall of your nose — not straight up. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you better understand the technique to conquering your fear of a nasal spray.”
Allergy medications that contain a decongestant are becoming more common. The antihistamine and decongestant combination provide quick, temporary relief of nasal and sinus congestion, along with the histamine blocker.
These decongestants, such as Sudafed, Claritin D and Mucinex D, typically contain pseudoephedrine, a drug used as a nasal decongestant. While they are over-the-counter, medications, you may have to show your identification to the pharmacy staff to purchase certain dosages.
Medical experts do not recommend pseudoephedrine for women who are pregnant or for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma or hyperthyroidism.
“The ingredients in pseudoephedrine can increase your heart rate,” Dr. DePrest said. “So it is very important for you to ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking an over-the-counter medication that contains a decongestant.”
If seasonal allergies begin to impact your everyday life, you should share this information with your primary care physician. In some cases, your doctor may recommend prescribed medicine, such as Singulair, or allergy testing.
“Yes, allergies are bothersome, especially during spring and fall,” Dr. DePrest said. “However, they shouldn’t be impacting your ability to work, interact with friends and family, or keep you awake while trying to rest. That’s when it is time to talk to your doctor.”
Dr. DePrest encourages his patients to use MyChart, Norton’s online patient portal, to send him nonurgent medical questions, schedule appointments and request medication refills. If you need a physician, find a Norton Community Medical Associates office near you.