The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has released updated tips for the treatment of patients with seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies caused by pollen can trigger or worsen asthma and lead to other health problems such as sinus infections (sinusitis) and ear infections in children. Many prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines can relieve seasonal allergy symptoms such as repetitive sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.
When choosing an OTC antihistamine, patients should read the Drug Facts label closely and follow dosing instructions, according to Jenny Kelty, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at the FDA. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness and interfere with the ability to drive or operate heavy machinery such as a car. Other antihistamines are nonsedating and do not have this side-effect. Some nonsedating antihistamines are available by prescription.
- Nasal corticosteroids are typically sprayed into the nose once or twice a day to treat inflammation that causes sneezing. Side effects may include stinging in the nose.
- Decongestants are available by prescription and OTC and come in oral and nasal spray forms. They are sometimes recommended in combination with antihistamines, which used alone do not have an effect on nasal congestion.
- Drugs that contain pseudoephedrine are available without a prescription but are kept behind the pharmacy counter to prevent their use in making methamphetamine.
Using decongestant nose sprays and drops more than a few days may give you a “rebound” effect, and the nasal congestion could get worse. These drugs are more useful for short-term use to relieve nasal congestion.
Immunotherapy is another option for allergy treatment. One form of allergen immunotherapy is allergy shots in which the body responds to injected amounts of a particular allergen, given in gradually increasing doses, by developing immunity or tolerance to that allergen. Patients can receive injections from a healthcare provider; a common course of treatment begins with weekly injections for 2 to 3 months until the maximum dose is reached. After that, treatment could continue monthly for 3 to 5 years.
Another form of allergen immunotherapy therapy involves administering the allergens in a tablet form under the tongue and is intended for daily use, before and during the pollen season. These medications are available by prescription for the treatment of hay fever caused by certain pollens and have the potential for lessening the immune response to allergens. Sublingual therapy should start 3 to 4 months before allergy season. Although they are intended for at-home use, the first doses are to be taken in the presence of a healthcare provider.
Seasonal allergies: Which medication is right for you? [news release]. US Food & Drug Administration. March 29, 2018. Accessible at: https://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm396321.htm