01 APR 2022

Finding Relief This Allergy Season

You can't stop Mother Nature from blooming come spring, but you can counter its effects with allergy medications.

Spring brings flower buds and blooming trees. For millions of seasonal allergy sufferers, it also brings sneezing, stuffy noses and itchy eyes.

Since the bloom is unavoidable, managing the symptoms of seasonal allergies needs to be the focus, said NorthBay pediatrician Michael Ginsberg, M.D. And there are plenty of options. "Today, the vast majority of your allergies can be treated with over-the-counter products," said Dr. Ginsberg.

Using an over-the-counter nasal steroid spray as directed is the first step in managing allergy symptoms, said Dr. Ginsberg. The three brands available over-the-counter are Flonase (fluticasone propionate), Nasacort and Rhinocort. "Flonase stings and burns, while Nasacort works just as well without the stinging and burning," Dr. Ginsberg said. "I've never had a compelling reason to use Rhinocort over the less expensive generics. All of these can be had for as little as $10/month and are probably available at your local big-box store. I usually use Nasacort."

Dr. Ginsberg adds that when taking a nasal steroid, it's really important to take it every single day until the end of allergy season. "These medications take 48-72 hours to reach peak effect, so although they are a daily-use treatment, they are not for immediate symptomatic relief," he noted.

If you have itchy eyes, Dr. Ginsberg recommends olopatadine drops (“PATANOL,” for twice-daily use or “PATADAY” for once-daily use). “They work very quickly to stop the itching, and they don’t sting or burn like older products," he said.

If over-the-counter nasal steroid spray and eye drops fail to manage your symptoms, Dr. Ginsberg suggests adding a non-sedating antihistamine such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), which he said works well in the majority of patients, but may cause mild sedation in a small minority of patients. Fexofenadine (Allegra) is quite effective and non-sedating, he added, but can cause insomnia, so he doesn't recommend taking it at night.

As for loratadine (Claritin), he said to skip it, as he has found "it only works well in a minority of patients."

If, after trying all of this, your allergy symptoms are still not under control, Dr. Ginsberg says it is time to see a doctor for prescription allergy medication, and if that doesn't help, a trip to an allergist may be in store.

Consult a NorthBay Primary Care doctor to help with your allergies this spring by calling (707) 646-5500.

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