May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Over 35 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. Although allergies can cause many bothersome symptoms including runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes and throat irritation, we are lucky that we have several medications that can be used to treat and prevent these symptoms. Therefore, people with allergies should not feel that they are limited in the outdoor activities that they can do. They should not feel that come the spring time that they should spend time indoors.
One of the best ways to try to prevent allergy symptoms when someone has outdoor allergies is to start taking medication prior to when the plants bloom. Currently, there are several over the counter medications. In the past, many of them, such as Benadryl or Chlorpheniramine, made most people tired. Today, over the counter medications such as Claritin and, more recently, Zyrtec are effective without causing that drowsy, sluggish feeling. Some people may get tired from the Zyrtec, but not as tired as they might with Benadryl.
Allergy drugs for nasal congestion and "stuffiness"
Although these anti-allergy pills provide relief for many patients, they may not help with nasal stuffiness for some people. There are allergy pills that also have a decongestant in them, such as labeled Claritin-D. You need to be careful with any medication that has pseudoephedrine in it as it can increased heart rate, shakiness, or difficulty sleeping. Your best bet is to follow-up with an allergist.
There are also additional allergy medications that require a prescription such as nasal steroids, which are probably better than anti-histamines (i.e. Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec) for helping patients decrease nasal congestion. If using both nasal steroids and an anti-histamine doesn't help your allergy symptoms, there is another possibility: Singulair blocks proteins called leukotrienes, which are also involved in allergic reactions. I usually have patients continue with their anti-histamines and nasal steroids when I add Singulair to their medications.
If all else fails, then we can resort to allergy shots. But the bottom line is that we have several medications that we can use to treat seasonal allergies so that patients with them should not need to suffer and can live life without limits.