Treating Seasonal Allergies | Which Medications and When

Allergy medication options

If you can’t avoid exposure to the allergens, there are a variety of medications – decongestants, antihistamines, nasal sprays, eye drops and more – that can offer relief from your allergy symptoms.

Dr. Devan Doshi, Beaumont allergist, explains, "As with all medications used, either over-the-counter or prescribed, it is important to review all medications being used with your doctor. This will help confirm there are no contraindications or coexisting conditions which may interfere with the safety and efficacy of all medications being used."

  • How to treat seasonal allergiesAntihistamines - reduces sneezing, sniffling and itching. Many over-the-counter antihistamines generally do not cause drowsiness or fatigue. According to Dr. Doshi, "These medications are considered very safe and may even be used regularly throughout one's allergy season(s)."
  • Decongestants - clear mucus out of the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling. Oral decongestants should not be given to young children. They may be helpful for adults with nasal allergy symptoms, but can have side effects including: increasing blood pressure and interfering with sleep. "Long-lasting use of decongestants may lead to decreasing effectiveness, as well as headaches and other side effects," says Dr. Doshi."
  • Nasal spray decongestants - relieve congestion and may clear clogged nasal passages faster than oral decongestants. They should not be used more than three days. Long term use is strongly discouraged and can lead to worsening of clinical symptoms.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter steroid nasal sprays - can help prevent the release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators; chemicals in the body that cause allergy symptoms.
  • Eye drops - relieve itchy, watery eyes. Dr. Doshi suggests, "Over-the-counter and prescription eye drops that contain antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers are very useful in relieving eye allergy symptoms. The majority of these medications may be used as needed. If longer term use is needed, your doctor may wish to have you further evaluated by an eye specialist or allergist.”
  • Allergy shots - for children and adults whose allergy symptoms are more severe and not easily treated with medications, referral to an allergist for allergy shots should be considered. "Most patients who are correctly diagnosed and treated will experience substantial reduction of allergy symptoms," Dr. Doshi explains. "It may take six to 12 months of therapy for the benefits to be noticeable. A complete course of therapy is long - approximately three to five years for maximum benefit."
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