When that time of year rolls around and you start sneezing uncontrollably, your nose starts running, and your eyes are watery and itchy, you might be dealing with seasonal allergies. While your initial reaction may be frustration, there are many ways to help reduce your seasonal allergy symptoms and get you feeling back to normal.
What Causes Allergies?
Allergies result when an overactive immune system causes the body to react to harmless substances like pollen or pet dander. Some allergies (especially those to foods and medications) can be dangerous, even life-threatening.
Up to 30% of the world’s population suffers from seasonal allergies, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Some people only experience their allergy symptoms during a few months of the year, but some unlucky people have seasonal allergies year-round.
Choosing the Right Medication
When treating allergies, it is important to put some thought into the process before choosing an allergy medication to find the treatment that will work best for you and provide the relief you need from your symptoms.
Consider these three main factors when choosing your allergy medication: What are my symptoms? How long do my symptoms last? What side effects should I be concerned about?
Types of Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
The most common symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- Stuffy, runny nose
- Postnasal drip
- Itchy throat
- Sinus congestion
- Frequent throat clearing
- Watery, itchy eyes
Some medications are better at treating specific symptoms than others.
For those with mild symptoms and excess mucus, saline nasal sprays can be helpful. Made from sterilized water and salt, they only work short-term. Nasal sprays treat seasonal allergy symptoms, not the underlying condition, so they require continued use to be effective.
The best medication for nasal congestion includes decongestants and corticosteroids.
These seasonal allergy medications are effective and quick-acting. They work by temporarily shrinking blood vessels in the nose, reducing your symptoms.
However, they have a drawback: you can’t use them for many days in a row because of risks of rebound congestion (the problem coming back worse).
Nasal steroid sprays (like Flonase and Nasacort) are a go-to treatment for seasonal allergies. If you have severe symptoms, you can talk to your doctor about a prescription-strength option.
Itching, Sneezing, and Runny Nose
Oral antihistamines (like Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec) block histamine, a chemical your body releases in response to allergens. Antihistamines are available in pill form and nasal sprays (Astelin, Astepro, and Patanase).
If you know when your seasonal allergies get triggered, you can try taking an antihistamine to manage your symptoms. Antihistamines might provide enough relief for those with mild symptoms, but since antihistamines only help manage your symptoms for short-term relief, you also might discover you need additional treatments to get long-term relief from your allergies.
For people whose asthma or wheezing worsens during allergy season, mast cell stabilizers like cromolyn can be effective. Combine with antihistamines or decongestants to optimize.
Duration of Symptoms
If you have allergies year round, you likely need a different treatment than someone who just has allergies during a specific season. Antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, and decongestants might work fine for those with mild or short-term seasonal allergies.
For those with year-round allergies, corticosteroid nasal sprays offer a temporary solution. Because these sprays only affect your nasal passages, not your entire body, you experience fewer side effects. The downside is that it can take a while for them to work, and using them consistently is the best way to maximize their effect.
Immunotherapy is another option for those with severe allergies. Immunotherapy exposes your immune system to amounts of allergens so small that the immune system doesn’t respond. Through repeated exposure, your body becomes desensitized to the allergen and no longer causes seasonal allergy symptoms when these allergens are in your environment. Immunotherapy is available in allergy shots, which require weekly visits to the allergist’s office for injections. Another popular form of immunotherapy is sublingual immunotherapy. Sublingual immunotherapy is just as effective as allergy shots, but it can be taken orally from the comfort of your home.
Potential Side Effects
Each class of seasonal allergy medication has its potential side effects:
- Intranasal Steroids: Nosebleeds and nasal irritation
- First-generation antihistamines (like Benadryl): Drowsiness, fatigue, and impaired concentration
- Second-generation antihistamines (like Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec): Mild drowsiness
- Saline sprays and rinses: Few side effects but may not offer relief
- Decongestants: Rebound congestion with overuse
- Allergy shots: Pain at the injection site and slight risk of anaphylaxis
- Sublingual immunotherapy: Mild itch in the mouth
Choosing the Right Treatment
The best medication for you is the one that improves your symptoms the most with the fewest side effects. That solution is different for everyone.
If you’re unsure where to start, choose Wyndly. Our allergy doctors are here to help you identify your allergens and find the right treatment plan to get you long-term allergy relief. Get you one step closer to beating your allergy symptoms by taking our easy 2-minute online assessment to see if Wyndly is right for you!