The allergy season has returned again. You may have several unanswered questions related to allergies. Given below are some answers provided by St. Petersburg-based allergist Dr. Mona Mangat.
With so many remedies available, how do I know which one is right for me?
Before trying a remedy, you should consider your symptoms and other health issues, such as high blood pressure, which worsens by using certain allergy medicines.
Majority of the symptoms that appear in allergic rhinitis (hay fever) are as a result of the body releasing chemicals such as histamine to combat what it considers an alien invader. Antihistamines are great in the treatment of itchy, runny, sneezy symptoms.
While the older antihistamines (such as Benadryl and ChlorTrimeton) are very effective, they tend to cause sleepiness. This sedation effect can be avoided by using newer antihistamines such as Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine). Over-the-counter generic equivalents of both are now available.
Decongestants are included to treat nasal congestion and sinus pressure; however, they should be taken cautiously by people who have hypertension.
Nasal sprays, such as Afrin, are available over the counter and provide quick relief of nasal congestion or pressure. The risk of using such a spray is that you can become dependent on it. Its use can also increase your blood pressure. Therefore, you should not use such sprays for more than three days.
When should I consult an allergist?
If you don’t get relief by using home remedies and over-the-counter medicines, then it may be time to make an appointment with an allergist. Allergists can help you by identifying the problem’s source.
Also, knowledge of exactly what causes the allergic reaction can help you take more effective measures to avoid it. For instance, if dust mites are the culprit, you can considerably decrease your exposure to them by using special cases for pillows and mattresses and minimizing soft furnishings such as thick rugs.
Also, an allergist can prescribe treatments that may help where over-the-counter products have failed. Nasal steroid sprays are the most effective treatments we have for the symptoms of rhinitis; however, you must use them on a consistent basis as a preventive measure, not when the nose is running like a faucet.
Finally, a lot of patients need more aggressive treatment, such as immunotherapy (allergy shots). That’s the only FDA-approved allergy treatment that can provide long-term benefits, as it actually causes a reduction in the body’s reaction to allergens over time.