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Spring Isn’t the Only Time of Year for Allergies

Chelsea M. ZavillaIf you are one of the millions worldwide who experience seasonal allergies, the fall season can bring about real discomfort. Allergies occur when your body’s immune system reacts to an allergen, such as pollen, weeds, grass, dust, or pet dander. As a result, you can experience a congested or runny nose, itchiness, sneezing, or red, watery eyes.
Fortunately, a variety of non-prescription allergy medications is available to help. But how do you choose the medication that works best for you and your symptoms? Below are good treatment options for the most common allergy symptoms.

  • Antihistamines dry up your runny nose and watery eyes and relieve itchiness and sneezing. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) is one of the most common oral antihistamines. Newer medicines, including loratadine (Claritin®), cetirizine (Zyrtec®), and fexofenadine (Allegra®) may cause less drowsiness. Antihistamine eyedrops such as ketotifen (Alaway®) also can relieve eye itchiness, redness, and swelling.
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays like mometasone furoate (Nasonex®) or fluticasone propionate (Flonase®) can treat all of your allergy symptoms. Another option is cromolyn (Nasalcrom®), a nasal spray that relieves sneezing and a runny, itchy nose. Keep in mind, however, that cromolyn can take one to four weeks to reduce your allergy symptoms. Pregnant women should check with their doctor before using cromolyn, but this medication has not been found to be harmful when used during pregnancy.
  • Decongestants can clear your stuffy nose, allowing you to breathe easier. Some decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®), are tablets or capsules that can be taken by mouth. (Please note that you will need to purchase pseudoephedrine at the pharmacy counter.) Other decongestants, such as oxymetazoline (Afrin®), are nasal sprays. Importantly, nasal decongestants should not be used for more than three days in a row because they can cause stuffiness to return. They may even make stuffiness worse when you stop using the medication.

Remember to carefully read the information on the label that comes with your medication. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking allergy medicines if you have any other medical conditions, such as glaucoma, hypertension, or diabetes, or if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

For more information on allergy medications, visit the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology or the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

By Chelsea M. Zavilla, B.S.P.S., School of Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh, and Sue Skledar, R.Ph., M.P.H., FASHP, clinical specialist, UPMC Health System Formulary Management and Drug Use Policy Associate Professor, School of Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh