A Doctor's 4 Tips for Battling Allergies at Home
About the Author
Dr. DeMeyere-Coursey chose to practice medicine at Paladina Health because she wants to be a part of the innovative changes coming to the delivery of primary care. She strives to spend productive time with her patients in an environment that fosters individualized, whole-person care.
Allergies are one of those annoying things your body may suffer through for no apparent reason. I took two full courses of immunology, and while these outlined the “why” of allergies, the courses still didn’t really explain…why. There’s no benefit I can fathom to having itching eyes, skin, and nasal passages, accompanied by sneezing, mucous, and congestion. In the caveman days, allergies certainly wouldn’t be advantageous to running from a saber-tooth tiger.
My job, as your medical provider, is to try and mitigate all these horrible symptoms. My first step is always to learn which symptom is bothering you the most and then target treatment based on that. Every treatment mentioned below can be found over the counter, and I encourage you to speak to your medical provider about your specific symptoms as some prescription medications can help as well.
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If you would like to avoid medication, I’m a big fan of suggesting saline rinses, which flush out congested sinuses and moisten dry nasal passages. Easy to find and relatively cheap, neti pots have been shown to alleviate allergy symptoms and are generally well tolerated (once you get past the initial weirdness factor).
“Systemic” or oral therapy for allergies can be broken into two categories: first generation and second generation. First-generation allergy medications, such as Benadryl/diphenhydramine, work well, but they can cause drowsiness. Second-generation allergy medications, like Zyrtec/cetirizine, Claritin/loratidine, and Allegra/fexofenadine, are less likely to cause drowsiness and will usually last 12 to 24 hours, so they tend to be prescribed more regularly.
Steroid nasal spray
Nasal sprays are my favorite way to treat allergies and generally the most successful. I personally use Flonase/fluticasone on a daily basis to help against sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and some eye symptoms, but other options include Nasonex/mometasone, and Nasacort/triamcinolone. Nasal sprays do include some steroids, but these will not enter your body and cause unwanted side effects like those you read about on WebMD. I tell my patients it is important to use this spray at least every other day and that they may not notice a difference until after one week. Think of it as a vitamin for your nose—if you don’t take it regularly, it won’t work!
If itchy eyes are your main symptom, eye drops may be the way to go. I personally have found the most success with Zaditor/ketotifen, which is an eye drop that can be used every 8 to 12 hours. If you wear contacts, it is advised to place the drops first and wait 15 minutes before inserting your contacts.
On the whole, allergies can be a frustrating, but very treatable problem, so don’t hesitate to bring it up at your next visit! Beyond these at-home treatments, your medical provider can prescribe different medications, and, if symptoms are severe, discuss the benefits of allergy shots or make referrals to an allergy specialist.