Smell the Spring Flowers — Without Sneezing!
By Gary R. Davis, Jr., MD
Medical Director, Drexel Student Health Center
Assistant Professor, Department of Family, Community, and Preventative Medicine
March 28, 2023
This allergy season has arrived early. There's no need to guess what medications to take. Below is a quick guide to over-the-counter remedies and advice from the Student Health Center
to put yourself in the best position to breathe easier this spring.
If you’re among the 26% of U.S. adults who suffer from seasonal allergies, we sympathize.
The warm winter has brought on an early spring, and climate change has lengthened the allergy season across North America by an average of 20 days.
What’s a dragon to do? How can we breathe fire when pollen is causing itchy eyes and noses, sneezing, congestion, coughing, and wheezing?
Fortunately, there are both over-the-counter and prescription options to relieve your symptoms, and Student Health Services or your primary care provider can help you decide on a treatment that’s right for you.
Over-the-counter remedies might include:
Old school Benadryl®, which can be sedating, has largely been replaced by Allegra®, Claritin®, and similar products. These work quickly and reach their maximum effect within a day. They might be a good first choice for mild, intermittent symptoms.
- Steroid Nasal Sprays
If you have persistent or severe symptoms, steroid nasal sprays are a good option. Remedies such as Flonase® are often more effective and can also help with eye symptoms and congestion. They may take days to reach maximum effectiveness but are good for persistent symptoms. Note that some people feel their effects are overly drying, and can lead to nose bleeds; and some people consider the mode of administration (an inhaler) as a downside and prefer to stay with oral medications.
- Nasal Antihistamines
Over-the-counter antihistamine nasal sprays fit somewhere between the oral antihistamines and nasal steroids in effectiveness. A new option from Bayer is called Astepro®. It claims to start working in 30 minutes but may be more expensive due to its being new.
Nasal sprays offer some help with congestion, but many allergy sufferers feel that congestion requires separate treatment, particularly when allergy symptoms come on fast and severe. Mucinex® or Sudafed® can be good, temporary adjuncts to use while allergy medications are reaching their maximum effect. Decongestant use should be limited to 3-5 days.
If you have asthma, allergies can make your symptoms worse. Please see your primary care provider to make sure it is optimally controlled. Allergy treatment may be an important part of your treatment plan.
If you are not gaining control of your allergy symptoms with over-the-counter agents, don't despair and don't suffer needlessly. Stop by Student Health or visit your local primary care provider for an evaluation and to discuss options.