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Are sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, or itchy eyes an unwelcome part of your life?
You may be one of millions of Americans with allergies. Seasonal hay fever — allergy to pollen or mold — is one of the most common allergic conditions. In addition, animal dander, dust mites, indoor mold and cockroach droppings often cause year-round allergies. Here are some helpful tips:
How do I know what over-the-counter medicine to choose?
Select a drug based on your symptoms. An antihistamine is the likely choice for itchy, red or watery eyes; a runny nose; or sneezing. Histamines — your body’s chemical response to an allergen — cause these symptoms.
You can buy antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) over the counter. Keep in mind that diphenhydramine may cause drowsiness.
Often, combination medications for allergies contain both an antihistamine and a decongestant.
Decongestant medication can help clear a stuffy nose. Available as sprays, liquid or pills, decongestants can cause sleeplessness or nervousness, and increase blood pressure and heart rate. Also, using decongestant spray for more than three or four days in a row can worsen nasal congestion. Read the label for dosage and warnings.
When should I see a doctor?
Get professional medical advice if allergy symptoms are severe or the treatment you’ve been using no longer works. Also, contact your doctor if you have side effects, such as hives or rash, from an allergy medication, or if you are suffering from allergic asthma that can be triggered by airborne pollen or mold.
What treatments can doctors offer?
A doctor can prescribe medications for your allergic condition. Following tests to determine exactly what you’re allergic to, an allergy specialist also can treat you with allergy shots. This type of immunotherapy can eventually help your body stop reacting to specific allergens.
Are there natural alternatives to medication?
Using a saline solution to wash sinuses may be helpful either as an alternative or used along with allergy medication. Nasal irrigation solutions are pressured into sinuses through the nose, using either a squeeze bottle or small pot with a spout. You can purchase solutions and equipment over the counter.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's health and wellness services or to find a Sharp-affiliated allergist, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find health general information, read the General Health News archive.