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Unpacking the Allergy Aisle

Pharmacist approved advice on how you may lessen the effects of seasonal allergies.

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Christina Ree, PharmD | March 25, 2021
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Spring is on the horizon and there are so many things to look forward to – longer days, warmer weather, and trees and flowers in bloom! For some of us, however, those beautiful blooming flowers and trees can kick start a season full of allergies. Here are pharmacist-approved suggestions on how to get you through it.

Itchy eyes:

For those that get those red, irritated, itchy eyes, eye drops can make a massive difference. For medicated eye drops, try Zaditor or Pataday. These are antihistamine eye drops that may provide up to 12 hours of relief. Some oral, non-drowsy antihistamine medications, such as Claritin, can also assist with itchy eyes. For additional relief, you can try using moisturizing eye drops like those from Refresh or Systane, since dry eyes may cause itchiness. When you’re outside, remember to use eye protection like sunglasses or wraparound glasses to help prevent pollen from coming in contact with your eyes. While at home, you can place a cold compress over your eyes to help reduce itchiness and relieve discomfort.

Congestion:

Not being able to breathe through your nose or taste anything you’re eating can be extremely annoying and make sleeping difficult. Many medications can assist with relieving congestion, including topical and oral decongestants. An over-the-counter oral decongestant such as SUDAFED PE can help combat these symptoms. However, this medication can be simulating for many causing insomnia and increased heart rate so avoid use close to bedtime. Topical nasal decongestants like Afrin can provide relief with fewer side effects, but can only be used for up to 3 days or it can cause rebound congestion…making your original symptoms even worse. This is a good option if you need quick short-term relief from your symptoms. For an alternative, non-stimulating longer-term options, you can try an intranasal corticosteroid nasal spray such as Nasacort or Flonase. Intranasal corticosteroids are considered the most effective treatment and can be part of your long-term allergy management plan with little to no systemic side effects. Do note it may take at least 1 week before you notice symptom relief.

Runny Nose:

On the complete opposite spectrum, some people suffer from a persistent runny nose with their allergies. Intranasal corticosteroids may also be used for a runny nose. However, options for quicker relief from a runny nose include oral antihistamines like Zyrtec, Claritin, or Allegra which work to dry everything up. First-generation antihistamines like Benadryl can be an equally effective option especially if your symptoms are keeping you up at night since they cause drowsiness as a side effect (make sure to only take it when you do not need to drive or operate machinery). They also can dry up your saliva glands as well causing dry mouth and dry eyes so be mindful if you are taking this product not to worsen other conditions you may have.

If you are pregnant or are interested in a more natural approach for nasal congestion or a runny nose, try Simply Saline nasal spray or a Neti Pot (using only distilled, sterile, or boiled & cooled water). Some at-home techniques for relief include using a humidifier, taking a steamy shower or bath, and drinking lots of fluids.

Multiple symptoms:

Many products already exist that have combined medications which typically include an antihistamine, decongestant, and an analgesic, to relieve multiple symptoms with each dose. Try to avoid combining multiple medications yourself to avoid unwanted side effects. If you do need to take more than one medication to relieve symptoms, speak with your pharmacist who can help you develop a customized plan of action.

Spring can be such a beautiful time of year but also frustrating for those with allergies. It is always best if you know your triggers and can avoid them when possible. If you know which specific pollens to which you’re allergic, Pollen.com is a great resource that can tell you not only the types and levels of pollen in the air. When the pollen count is high, make sure to keep windows shut and avoid outdoor activities when possible. Whichever allergies ail you, Bartell’s has the necessary information and medications to assist.