Your Allergy Medicine - How's That Working Out?

by Kathi MacNaughton Health Professional

The good news is there are plenty of choices for allergy medicines and treatments. Pills are the traditional treatment, but there are also nasal sprays, allergy shots and drops and some people even swear by certain vitamins and supplements.

But the bad news is that there is no ONE medicine that will effectively treat allergies in every person who suffers with them. It seems we each respond a bit differently to these chemicals we put into our bodies, which is probably part of the reason we have so many choices.

I've covered both traditional allergy treatments as well as alternative, or natural allergy therapies quite extensively in previous posts. But today, I wanted to talk a bit more about the fact that treating allergies is sometimes a bit of a moving target.

How & When You Take Them Can Make a Difference

There are many factors that can affect how well a medicine works for an individual. My feeling is that sometimes it just depends on your unique, individual make-up. I know, for example, that Allegra works better for my allergies, which is why I was elated when it recently went over the counter. But other people swear by Claritin or Zyrtec... or even older remedies like Drixoral (which is no longer available).

But there can be other factors as well. For example, I just learned recently that Allegra's effectiveness is greatly reduced if it is taken with fruit juice or even within an hour or two of drinking fruit juice. So, it's not a good idea to take that allergy medicine at breakfast time

A few years ago, I read a report that showed that 24-hour allergy medicine like Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec often reaches peak effectiveness hours after you take it (though it will provide some relief within an hour or so). And since allergy symptoms are often worst first thing in the morning, they were suggesting you take your allergy medicine at bedtime. I've been doing that and I have to say, it's working better for me to do so.

So, if you're not getting the effect you expected from an allergy medicine, you might try switching to a different medicine, taking it with plain water, or taking it at bedtime. Try that for a couple of weeks before you make any judgments. Who knows? You might be surprised by the results!

What About Medicine "Immunity"?

Did you ever find that a certain medicine worked great for you for some period of time... until it didn't? This is an oft-reported phenomenon, especially with allergy medicine, and I have definitely suspected it was happening to me.

When Claritin first came on the scene as the first of the second-generation antihistamines, I loved it. How wonderful to get relief from symptoms any time of the day, without having to worry about feeling sleepy! But by the time Allegra was introduced a few years later, I was finding I just wasn't getting relief from Claritin any more. I was pleased to find that Allegra started giving me more relief again.

So, could there be anything to this theory? Can we really become used to a medicine or build up a tolerance to it, as you can to alcohol, pain killers or recreational drugs?

According to my reading and research, people definitely believe that this can happen with allergy medicine. But there haven't really been any definitive studies that prove it. Use the Comments link below to tell me what you think about the idea of medicine immunity, OK?

And, if you think it's happened to you, it's a great time to discuss your allergy treatment plan with your doctor. There is always something else you can try, and treating allergies is very much a trial and error process. So don't give up; just try something different!

Kathi  MacNaughton
Meet Our Writer
Kathi MacNaughton

Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she's been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.