Column: Allergy advice for spring

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Commentary by Anthony Russo, BS, PharmD, RPh

Spring is here, and Carmel residents are eagerly welcoming the warm weather and outdoor activities. Unfortunately, the beauty of spring also means a return of red, itchy and watery eyes as well as sneezing and runny noses for allergy sufferers. To truly enjoy the vibrancy of spring, it is important to understand allergies and how to manage them.

What are allergies?

In short, allergies are the body’s way of overreacting to a foreign object in the air (pollen, for example) and fighting it with an immune response.

Allergy treatments

Our first line of defense for mild allergies are the daily, over-the-counter antihistamines. The three that I recommend do not cause drowsiness like many others: Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec. There is no strong evidence that one is better than another, but if the product doesn’t benefit you within 3-5 days, try another one. Your insurance may even pay for medicine, making them even more affordable.

For more stubborn allergies, daily nasal steroids fight more than histamine. Most insurance plans will help pay for nasal steroids, but three are available over-the-counter: Flonase, Nasacort and Rhinocort. There is more to using these medicines than simply squirting them up your nose, however. Ask your pharmacist for the proper usage technique.

There are also alternative ways to treat allergies:

  • Using a nasal irrigation product like the Neti Pot or saline spray flushes your nasal passages.
  • Vacuuming often reduces dust mites.
  • Getting tested by your doctor determines exactly what you are allergic to so you can avoid it whenever possible.
  • Paying attention to pollen counts and allergy indexes provides advance notice of the days you may feel your worst.

Remember that it is always important to inform your doctor or pharmacist of over-the-counter medications you try. If these solutions aren’t helping, there are prescription-only options or allergy shots that may be appropriate.

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