If you have recently developed a typical sneezing-sniffling-eye-watering allergy and are now trying to navigate the world of allergy treatments, medications are a common first step. Antihistamines (both prescription and over-the-counter) are available in a number of forms and can be effective in calming reactions. Many do have side effects, though, and you need to know how and when to take them—and if you should take them at all or seek other treatment options.
The Right One at the Right Time Works
Antihistamine pills, nasal sprays, creams and eye drops can work very well when you find the right combination of medication, delivery system and timing. Finding the right combination can be a trial-and-error process because people tend to react a bit differently to different medications. An antihistamine that works beautifully for one person might not work that well for someone else, or it might work very well when combined with a decongestant.
Your allergist can suggest specific medications that seem to work better for specific symptoms, or you may find that your symptoms are so severe that a prescription medication would work better. It's best to meet with an allergist to discuss what symptoms you need to address and what side effects you need to avoid, such as drowsiness during the work week.
Drowsiness Can Linger
Speaking of drowsiness, if you do end up with a medication that can make you drowsy, be aware that you may experience lingering grogginess even after the dose wears off. It is better to try new medications that have drowsiness as a side effect on your days off, when you don't need to drive or do anything that requires being alert. This way, you can see how you feel after the dose wears off without also having to deal with driving around or concentrating on work.
Also note that the medication doesn't have to be ingested to make you drowsy. Some nasal sprays have this side effect, too.
Avoidance May Be Better in Certain Situations
It can be difficult to totally avoid many allergens. If you have become allergic to several types of spring pollen, for example, then avoiding going outside would be a little difficult.
But other types of allergens are easier to avoid, like mold in a dry environment. For example, if you've been having a mildew or mold problem in your home, and you have mild allergies to the substances, cleaning up the mold and mildew and using a dehumidifier could eliminate the need to take allergy medications for the mold or mildew.
Again, these are all trial and error. Allergies are highly personal; some respond to one treatment while others require different strategies. But with the help of a good allergist, you can find that sweet spot that lets you live your life again.
Neti Pots Could Help
It is possible that a neti pot, a small pot with a nozzle that you place in one nostril—you pour a specific solution of water and salt into the nostril and out the other—could be a suitable method for clearing allergens out of your sinuses. However, using a neti pot takes practice, and the solution you use has to meet certain proportions. Discuss this method with your allergist to see if it is something you should try.
Watch for Side Effects
Allergy medications can have side effects like the aforementioned drowsiness. They can also create an opposite effect, such as antihistamines stopping your nose form running but then causing it to become congested.
Another side effect to watch out for is the rebound effect. Sometimes this effect is mistakenly called an addiction; no, you're not becoming addicted to your allergy medication, but your tissues can become used to the effect of the medication. The result is that, when the dose wears off, you can feel a little worse.
Use Exactly as Directed
Finally, be sure that you understand exactly how to use the medication. Proper use is very important for nasal sprays as these need to be aimed inside the nostril a certain way. Wrong aim can lead to more side effects and fewer beneficial effects.
Medications are one form of treatment, and they can work well. For severe or year-round allergies, though, they may be less helpful simply because you'd end up with year-round side effects. Allergy shots may be a more effective treatment in that case.