You feel miserable!
Your eyes are so itchy that you have rubbed them raw and you have fits of sneezing so violent you are afraid you have permanently damaged your ears. Mucous drips on your keyboard while you try to work and you can’t sleep or taste your food because your nose is plugged shut. Your mouth is so dry from mouth breathing that it feels like a small furry mammal has taken up residence.
You need relief but you are too busy to get in to see a doctor or the next available appointment is not until the allergy season will be long over.
You might be asking: “What can I get at a local Walgreens, CVS, or Costco that will give some relief?”
Here are a few suggestions:
Get Zyrtec 10 mg (cetirizine) or Allegra 180mg (fexofendine). Do not get the “D” version of either.
Zyrtec is best but can make you a little drowsy so be careful at work or school or if you will be driving. Allegra works well and will not make you drowsy but is a pretty big pill to swallow. These will help the sneezing and itching and to some degree the dripping. They will not unstuff your nose.
Yes it’s a steroid…however it is topical with very little systemic side effects, and is the only thing that will safely unplug your nose. (Read more about steroids)
No nasal steroid works quickly; it will be several days to a week before you see improvement and you have to use them every day. Flonase (fluticasone) and now Rhinocort (budesonide) are the best. They both have a smell but neither is deal breaker. All nasal steroids can cause burning and possible a bloody nose with regular use. They should not be used in children under 12 without checking with a doctor first.
Naphcon A works quickly and will temporarily relieve the itching and redness. Any topical medication with a decongestant (like Naphcon) can cause rebound issues if you use it daily for more than about a week. For symptoms lasting longer than that, you are much better off getting a prescription eye drop.
Decongestants have issues. For any but short term, as needed use, the side effects can outweigh the benefits. There are only two decongestants still on the market: pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is considerable more effective than phenylephrine, which many believe to be so under dosed in the OTC products that it is not much better than placebo. Pseudoephedrine is now a controlled medication so you can only get a few at a time and you have to sign for what you get. Oral decongestants can cause cottonmouth, raise your blood pressure and heart rate, keep you up at night, and make it hard to pee (particularly if you happen to have a prostate).
In my opinion, decongestants are more helpful for cold and sinus symptoms. In fact, OTC medications that use the words, “cold and sinus”, typically contain a decongestant and medications that use the word “allergy” usually contain an antihistamine.
If medications are not helping or if you are wondering if there is an alternative to having to take medications (OTC or otherwise) for the rest of your life, it is time to make an appointment with an allergist.
I just might know one to recommend.