Hay fever, otherwise known as allergic rhinitis, is caused by airborne allergens and leads to a stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, and scratchy throat. The symptoms themselves can range in severity, impacting your day-to-day functions and making it difficult to sleep and focus on important tasks. If you're not sure what will work best on your hay fever, here are three of the most popular treatment options to discuss with your physician.
During an allergic reaction, your body produces histamines that attach to and damage your cells. Antihistamines work by blocking the histamines, thereby reducing your body's response to the allergens. OTC treatments are a good place to start if your symptoms are mild to moderate, and there are currently two different kinds of treatment to choose from.
First generation. These types of antihistamines are for allergic reactions, but they also target areas of the brain that are responsible for nausea and vomiting. So they can also control motion sickness. These medications are short-acting and tend to cause drowsiness in a lot of people, and in such a situation, your doctor may recommend you try something else. First generations are best suited for use right before being exposed to an allergen, like at an outdoor picnic or before visiting a relative with pets.
Second generation. These medications are newer, longer lasting, and much less likely to make the patient sleepy. They have become the go-to for a lot of people suffering from hay fever, and most of them are only available by prescription. Unlike the first-generation drugs, the second-generation drugs are recommended for those who need daily intervention from seasonal allergies.
Side effects that tend to be most common include dry eyes, mouth, and throat. But they can also cause restlessness, nervousness, and headaches. If you experience any unusual or uncomfortable side effects, your doctor will probably discuss other options with you.
Nasal decongestants are often used in people with hay fever, either in conjunction with antihistamines or as an alternative. They do not target histamines but rather work by reducing the swelling that causes stuffiness. So while you'll be able to breathe better, you could still suffer from sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes and throat.
Unless you've been given the okay by your physician, decongestants should not be used by children under six, patients taking an MAOI inhibitor, or anyone with the following health conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Heart conditions
- Kidney problems
- Prostate problems
Decongestants can be taken orally or as a nasal spray. When deciding which one is best, keep in mind the nasal spray works almost immediately, whereas an oral dose might take longer to take effect. While most people say that the nasal sprays work best, you shouldn't take them for more than a week or so, or else you could suffer from rebound stuffiness once you do stop the medication. Decongestants are better for those who need only temporary relief from allergies.
Nasal Corticosteroid Sprays
Nasal steroids are commonly prescribed for those suffering with hay fever. These are not the same steroids used by body builders. They actually work by reducing the inflammation that comes with an allergic reaction. They also cut down on mucus production and alleviate other allergy symptoms. Several brands are available as an OTC option, and others you can only get with a prescription.
There are several benefits to these types of nasal sprays. One is that they are generally safe for all types of patients, even those that are pregnant. Young children over the age of two can handle some, too, but check with their pediatrician for specific brands that are safe. Nasal sprays are also safe for long-term use, and they tend to have a high success rate.
It's important to take nasal steroid sprays every day for best results. It might be several weeks before you notice an improvement in symptoms. But if you start taking a medication at the beginning of the allergy season, you'll find that it works much better at preventing hay fever.
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