Spring time brings beautiful flowers and plants, and with these blooms come seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies are often triggered by outdoor allergens like pollen or mold. Common symptoms include itchy or runny nose, stuffy nose, sneezing, and itchy or watery eyes.
The first step in relieving these symptoms is to avoid the allergen, or substance that is causing these allergy symptoms. For example, closing windows and doors when pollen counts are high might help reduce pollen exposure. Other ways to limit pollen exposure include limiting time spent outdoors, especially on windy days when pollen counts are highest, and wearing an allergy mask when outdoor exposure is unavoidable.
There are several over-the-counter options for treating allergies. Antihistamines are used most commonly, and include Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra. These are taken once daily and may be used to prevent or treat allergy symptoms like itching, sneezing, runny nose, and itchy or watery eyes. However, they are most effective if taken before or right after allergen exposure.
If a stuffy nose is the problem, a nasal spray might be the best option. Nasacort has recently become available over-the-counter (OTC), and is approved in adults and children 2 years and older. Another nasal spray option is Afrin, but Afrin should not be used longer than 3-5 days in order to work effectively.
Several of the OTC drugs used to treat allergies were originally available by prescription only. Many of these products are just as effective as prescription products, and are often less expensive. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about your allergy symptoms.
(Editor’s note: Alyssa Davis is PharmD candidate currently working at Clinton Drug in Clinton.)