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Seasonal Allergies: Beating the Sniffles and Sneezes

As the weather starts to warm up, many people look forward to enjoying outdoor activities and the beauty of nature. However, for some, the spring season brings with it seasonal allergies, which can significantly impact their quality of life. Common symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats. Fortunately, there are many OTC treatments available to alleviate these symptoms and provide relief. However, it's important to note that if symptoms persist or worsen, seeking advice from a healthcare professional is recommended. They can help identify the underlying cause of the allergy and recommend appropriate treatment options. Additionally, some people may have severe allergies that require prescription medications, making it even more important to seek professional advice if symptoms are not adequately controlled.


Changing the Environment

In addition to choosing appropriate OTC treatments based on specific symptoms, it's important to also identify and remove environmental factors that can cause allergies. This may include avoiding exposure to allergens by staying indoors on days when pollen counts are high or wearing a mask when doing outdoor activities such as gardening. In the home, regular cleaning can help reduce exposure to dust and mold. This can include vacuuming carpets and furniture, washing bedding in hot water, and using a HEPA filter in the home's air conditioning and heating systems. Additionally, keeping pets off of furniture and out of certain rooms can help reduce exposure to animal dander. If environmental factors cannot be controlled or symptoms persist despite efforts to reduce exposure, it may be necessary to seek the help of an allergy specialist. An allergy specialist can perform allergy testing to determine specific allergens and provide guidance on the best treatment options.


Antihistamines

Antihistamines are a popular over-the-counter treatment for seasonal allergies. These medications work by blocking the histamine that is released by the body during an allergic reaction. Histamine is responsible for the common allergy symptoms, including itching, sneezing, and runny nose. Common antihistamines include loratadine, cetirizine, and fexofenadine, which are available in tablets, capsules, and liquids. If these antihistamines fail to provide relief, some individuals may have better results with an older generation antihistamine, such as chlorpheniramine. However, it is important to note that chlorpheniramine may cause increased drowsiness in comparison to the other antihistamines mentioned.


Decongestants

Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, are commonly used to provide relief from nasal congestion and sinus pressure caused by seasonal allergies. While these medications are available without a prescription, Oklahoma law mandates that pseudoephedrine must be kept behind the pharmacy counter and requires identification to be presented during purchase. This is a precautionary measure due to the potential for misuse or abuse of the medication.


Nasal Sprays

Nasal sprays are a popular treatment option for seasonal allergies. They provide targeted relief to the nasal passages and can be more effective than oral medications. There are two main types of over-the-counter nasal sprays: steroid and antihistamine. Steroid nasal sprays, such as fluticasone and triamcinolone, reduce inflammation by inhibiting the immune response in the nasal passages. Antihistamine nasal sprays, like azelastine, block histamine to alleviate symptoms like itching, sneezing, and runny nose. While steroid sprays take a few days to work, antihistamine sprays provide quicker relief but may be less effective at reducing inflammation. Choosing the right nasal spray depends on the severity and type of symptoms.


Eye Drops

Uncomfortable eye symptoms related to allergies, such as itching and watering, which can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine eye drops like ketotifen and olopatadine. These eye drops block histamine, which causes allergic symptoms in the eyes and provide quick relief from itchy, watery, and red eyes. They are available without a prescription, making them an easy option for allergy sufferers. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, it is important to consult a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying conditions and discuss other treatment options.


Final Thoughts

Before starting any new medication for seasonal allergies, it is crucial to seek professional advice since OTC treatments may not be suitable for everyone. Underlying medical conditions or the severity of the allergies may require a different approach to treatment. Consulting a pharmacist or healthcare professional can ensure that the treatment is suitable for the individual and does not interact with other medications. If symptoms persist or worsen despite treatment, seeking advice from a healthcare professional is recommended. With proper guidance and medication, individuals can manage their seasonal allergies and enjoy the outdoors during the spring and summer months.


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