“Do I have a cold or the flu?” is a very common Google search. It is understandable because many signs are identical, and they are treated very differently. You don’t want to waste time on the wrong medication; you want to know what you’re dealing with so you can handle it properly and start feeling better as soon as possible. Allergies are the same way, and you’re most likely treating your allergy symptoms incorrectly.
- There are certain triggers in your environment. Those triggers are known as allergens. Allergens range from pollen, dirt, to dust particles. When your immune system becomes excessively sensitive to such allergens, your body develops a condition as allergies.
- Typical allergy signs and symptoms include a stuffy or runny nose which can trigger a sneezing response and swollen itchy watery eyes.
- Certain medications are used to relieve allergy symptoms, the most common of which include antihistamines and decongestants. Saline and corticosteroids may also be used.
- Some of these medications are more effective in treating specific symptoms than the others, but corticosteroids are the first-line therapy for allergies.
What exactly are allergies?
Allergies are hypersensitivity reactions of our immune system to certain substances in our environment. Our immune system recognizes these substances as harmful, even though they are not, and acts accordingly.
While certain allergies are fatal such as those to peanuts, fish, seafood, and some drugs, seasonal allergies to pets or pollen are more of a nuisance than anything serious. Seasonal allergies usually don’t cause any severe symptoms. In this article, we will concentrate on seasonal allergies and how to handle them properly.
According to estimates, seasonal allergies affect 10-30% of the world’s population (it is also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever). Although the name implies that the runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and red, itchy, and watery eyes are the symptoms that occur only during the winter or certain seasons like pollen season, some people are affected all year. Allergy symptoms like these can vary from mild to extreme depending on your immune system and the type of allergy you have.
The most effective treatments for seasonal allergy symptoms
When it comes to selecting the correct allergy drug for your symptoms, the last thing you want to do is fly blind to trust your luck and hope that you get it right the first time. We’ve broken down three things to consider when deciding how to handle your allergy symptoms. It will help you get it right the first time, so you can get back to completing your to-do list without having to worry about watery eyes and your runny nose.
Certain drugs are better suited to treating specific symptoms than others. The following are the four major categories of medications available as prescription or over-the-counter (OTC), with their available forms in parentheses:
- Saline: These sprays may be useful if you are having mild allergy symptoms and you want to clear your nose of excess mucous. They’re perfect for clearing your nose because they’re made of sterilized water and salt. They will relieve your symptoms quickly. One thing that you have to keep in mind for using these is they are only suitable for short-term treatment. They only treat the symptoms and do nothing for the underlying cause. You will still have to look for another treatment option with them if you want long-term effects.
- Corticosteroids and decongestants Some of the commonest allergy symptoms are nasal congestion, inflammation, and swelling. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you will probably benefit from either decongestants or corticosteroids. Corticosteroid nasal sprays are widely used to treat allergic rhinitis symptoms. There are over-the-counter alternatives, such as Nasacort (triamcinolone) and Flonase (fluticasone), but prescription-strength options may be needed for those with serious symptoms.
- Antihistamines are medications that are used to treat allergies. When used regularly, some people find that oral antihistamines such as Zyrtec, Benadryl, and Allegra are excellent for relieving symptoms and even preventing them from occurring in the first place. When our immune system recognizes some foreign substance, it releases histamine to fight off invading substance. Histamine in turn produces symptoms like nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy, red, and swollen eyes. Antihistamines relieve symptoms by blocking the effects of histamine. In addition to pills, antihistamines such as Astepro, Astelin, and Patanase, are available as nasal sprays.
Are there any side effects?
Medications are rarely without side effects. Some allergy drugs can cause nosebleeds, headaches, nausea, a bad taste in your mouth, and a cough. However, it becomes more specific after that here in terms of what to expect and how potential side effects can be. Each drug class has its collection of common side effects. We are stating them here for you to make an informed choice.
- Steroids are very common drugs. Long-term use of these medications is harmful. The side effects of corticosteroids vary depending on the dosage and duration of use. Potential side effects include easy bruising, sleep disturbances, leg swelling, vision disturbance, and weight gain.
- The side effects of antihistamines vary depending on whether you are taking a first-generation or second-generation medication. Drowsiness, weakness, and impaired concentration are common side effects of first-generation antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl). Owing to the heavy sedative impact of these drugs, healthcare providers do not suggest driving while taking them. These side effects are less common in second-generation antihistamines like loratadine, but there are some exceptions with brands like Zyrtec.
- Saline nasal sprays. Saline nasal sprays are usually well-tolerated because they only contain salt and sterile water. However, as explained previously in this article these options may not be as successful as other forms of treatments because they only temporarily clear the nasal passage. They don’t treat the underlying cause and you are prone to having these symptoms over and over again if you don’t treat them right.
- Decongestants can cause rhinitis medicamentosa, also known as rebound congestion. It is a condition caused by the overuse of decongestants. When you use too much decongestant, your body reacts by inducing severe congestion when you stop using these medications. Researchers disagree about what exactly causes this cycle—some say the drugs affect blood flow, and when these drugs are withdrawn, high blood flow in those region cause swelling in the nasal passages, while others believe they affect nasal receptors. The result is a dependence on the medications.
How to Determine Which Allergy Medication Is Best for You
The best allergy medicine for you is one that easily alleviates your allergy symptoms while causing as few side effects as possible.