Support for Seasonal Allergy Sufferers
Seasonal allergies develop when the immune system overreacts to something in the environment, like mould spores or pollen. When the immune system releases chemicals like histamine into the bloodstream to defend against allergens, seasonal allergy symptoms like runny or stuffy nose, sneezing or fatigue can occur.
We spoke to Dean German, Pharmacist and Pharmacy Operations Manager at Federated Co-operatives Limited, about some of our options for treating seasonal allergy symptoms.
All About Antihistamines
Antihistamines reduce or block the release of histamine and are therefore effective at treating most common seasonal allergy symptoms. In particular, oral antihistamines are effective at treating runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and itchy nose, mouth, or throat, but are generally less effective at treating stuffy nose.
While antihistamines can be helpful for easing symptoms that have already appeared, they are most effective if taken before exposure to the allergen, allowing them to prevent the symptoms from occurring.
Not all antihistamines are the same. First-generation antihistamines include brands like Benadryl and Chlor-Tripolon. While effective at treating most common seasonal allergy symptoms, they typically cause drowsiness or tiredness and need to be taken up to four times a day.
Second- and third-generation antihistamines include brands like Claritin, Reactine, Allegra and Aerius. These antihistamines are typically only taken once a day and cause fewer incidences of drowsiness and tiredness. For these reasons, second-generation antihistamines are generally preferred in the treatment of seasonal allergy symptoms.
Treating Itchy and Watery Eyes
While oral antihistamines are generally effective at treating itchy and watery eyes, they also have the potential to dry the eyes and make symptoms worse. When regular use of oral antihistamines has not treated ocular symptoms, prescription eye drops containing an antihistamine may be necessary. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor to determine if prescription eye drops can benefit you.
When Should I Use A Decongestant?
An oral or nasal decongestant improves the nasal congestion or stuffy nose common in seasonal allergy sufferers that antihistamines may not. Nasal decongestants should not be used for longer than three to five days.
Oral decongestants can negatively affect blood pressure, various cardiovascular disorders, glaucoma and thyroid disorders; therefore, anyone with an underlying medical condition should consult with a pharmacist before using an oral decongestant.
What to know about corticosteroid nasal sprays
Intranasal corticosteroids, available as nasal sprays, are some of the most effective agents for seasonal allergy treatment. They relieve runny nose, sneezing, stuffy nose and itching, and may help itchy and watery eyes.
They are typically used once or twice a day. They should be used when oral antihistamines are not effective or seasonal allergy symptoms are moderate to severe.
Until recently, these agents were only available by prescription; however, some are now available over the counter and pharmacists can prescribe them under certain situations. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor to determine if an intranasal corticosteroid is right for you.
When you suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms, your Co-op pharmacist is there to help you find relief.