Try an over-the-counter remedy
Several types of nonprescription medications can help ease allergy symptoms. They include:
- Oral antihistamines. Antihistamines can help relieve sneezing, itching, runny nose and watery eyes. Examples of oral antihistamines include loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy, others) and fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy). Older antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), are also effective, but they can make you drowsy.
- Decongestants. Oral decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Afrinol, others) can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness. Decongestants also come in nasal sprays, such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine). Only use nasal decongestants for short-term relief. Long-term use of decongestant nasal sprays can actually worsen symptoms (rebound congestion).
- Nasal spray. Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can ease allergy symptoms and doesn't have serious side effects, though it's most effective when you begin using it before your symptoms start.
- Combination medications. A number of allergy medications combine an antihistamine with a decongestant. Examples include the oral medication Drixoral, which combines the antihistamine dexbrompheniramine maleate with the decongestant pseudoephedrine sulfate, and the nasal spray Claritin-D, which combines the antihistamine loratadine with pseudoephedrine sulfate.
Rinse your sinuses
Rinsing your nasal passages with distilled, sterile saline solution (nasal irrigation) is a quick, inexpensive and very effective way to relieve nasal congestion. Rinsing directly flushes out mucus and allergens from your nose. Look for a squeeze bottle or a neti pot — a small container with a spout designed for nasal rinsing — at your pharmacy or health food store. Use water that's distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered using a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller to make up the saline irrigation solution. Also be sure to rinse the irrigation device after each use with similarly distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered water and leave open to air-dry.
Interested in alternative treatments? Consider these
A number of natural remedies have been used to treat hay fever symptoms. Treatments that may help include extracts of the shrub butterbur and spirulina (a type of dried algae). A number of other natural remedies are used to treat allergies, but the benefits aren't clear and some may not be safe — so talk to your doctor before trying one.
When home remedies aren't enough, see your doctor
For many people, avoiding allergens and taking over-the-counter medications is enough to ease symptoms. But if your seasonal allergies are still bothersome, don't give up. A number of other treatments are available.
If you have bad seasonal allergies, your doctor may recommend that you have skin tests or blood tests to find out exactly what allergens trigger your symptoms. Testing can help determine what steps you need to take to avoid your specific triggers and identify which treatments are likely to work best for you.
For some people, allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy) can be a good option. Also known as desensitization, this treatment involves regular injections containing tiny amounts of the substances that cause your allergies. Over time, these injections reduce the immune system reaction that causes symptoms.
July 17, 2012
See more In-depth
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- Gardening with allergies. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=19&cont=470. Accessed April 3, 2012.
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2012: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05611-3..C2009-0-38601-8--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05611-3&uniqId=291436269-101. Accessed March 31, 2012.
- Indoor allergens: Tips to remember. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/indoor-allergens.aspx. Accessed April 3, 2012.
- McPhee SJ, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2012. 51st ed. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=1. Accessed April 1, 2012.
- Naegleria FAQs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/faqs.html. Accessed March 30, 2012.
- Man L. Complementary and alternative medicine for allergic rhinitis. Current Opinion in Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. 2009;17:226.
- Fact sheet: Allergic rhinitis (Hay fever). American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/allergicRhinitis.cfm. Accessed March 30, 2012.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed April 1, 2012.
- Antihistamines, decongestants, and cold remedies. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/coldRemedies.cfm. Accessed April 3, 2012.