Photo: ThinkstockBy Corrie Pikul
You're mistreating yourself.
Four out of five allergy sufferers never visit a doctor, and few people know what to take and when. If you're sneezing and have red, itchy eyes and a drippy nose, choose an antihistamine, says Sakina Bajowala, a board-certified allergist and immunologist with a private practice in North Aurora, Illinois. Antihistamines block the actions of symptom-triggering histamines throughout the body.
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They'll kick in within a few hours, but for optimal relief, start taking them before symptoms hit (Bajowala adds that many antihistamines--even "nondrowsy" versions--can make people sleepy and recommends taking a 24-hour-action pill at bedtime). If your main problem is a stuffed-up head, Bajowala suggests an oral decongestant, which temporarily decreases the swelling of the nasal tissues. You can wait until after your head feels full of cotton--but avoid taking at night, because decongestants tend to make people jittery, Bajowala says. (They also have a tendency to raise blood pressure, so use caution if you have heart issues.)
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You've developed "rebound congestion."
An OTC nasal decongestant spray can help in a pinch, but you should never rely on one for more than three days in a row, says Bajowala, who is also a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). She explains that after repeated use, nasal tissues become accustomed to the decongestant and begin to overcompensate. This causes you to feel even more stuffy than before, and you'll need increasingly higher doses of nasal spray to get relief. If you're already hooked, make an appointment with a doctor who can recommend an anti-inflammatory prescription spray. They build up in the tissues over weeks of use, so they don't provide immediate relief, but they're much safer and more effective in the long run.
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You've been letting in the sunshine-along with less delightful things.
It's spring--time to air out the house to help you breathe easier...except this can make the pollen levels inside the house as bad as they are outside, Bajowala says. Raise the shades but keep the windows closed when the pollen count is high (check local levels at the National Allergy Bureau web site ). Instead, get rid of dust and other allergens with central air-conditioning or an air filter (clean or change filters once per season to keep them working properly).
KEEP READING: 3 More Reasons You're Still Suffering from Allergies
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