Allergy meds: which one's best for you?


Thanks to the Pollen Vortex, it's going to be a tough season for you if you suffer from spring allergies.

There are are shelf full of options at your local pharmacy or supermarket, and experts say it's a matter of finding what works best for you and your kids. They do have some tips on how to narrow down which brand works for you.

First, it all depends on what you're feeling.

"If you're most bothered by runny nose, itchy nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, then antihistamine is the easiest, best thing to do," says Dr. Christina Barnes, an allergist with the South Bend Clinic.

Dr. Barnes recommends trying Zyrtec first, one of the newer antihistamines offered over-the-counter. Benadryl is one of the oldest, but causes drowsiness. Claritin is a little more effective, but can also cause sleepiness in some people.

If you're feeling stuffed up, there's a different kind of medicine for you.

"If you're dealing with a lot of congestion or nasal drip, an antihistamine will help a little bit but not that much," Dr. Barnes says. "Decongestants can be helpful."

Those include Sudafed and Afrin, or their generic counterparts.

There is one product that's brand new to store shelves this year, and it goes straight to the problem area: your nose.

"The newest product on the market is Nasacort, it's a topical steroid that you inhale through the nose," says Marc Merrill, pharmacist and owner of Merrill Pharmacies in Mishawaka. "It just came over the counter from being a prescription product, so it's probably one of the biggest things we've got in our arsenal right now."

And one of the most effective.

But Dr. Barnes says you'll want to start spraying the medicine days before you even start sneezing.

"That's something that can be really effective, but you have to start it in advance," she says. "So that's why I say, if you know it may be coming, that's an ideal one to start and you can use that in children as well."

There are some over-the-counter options specifically for children that have age requirements right on the box, like Children's Allegra. Kids must be at least two years old to take those over-the-counter medicines. Any younger, and they'll have to see a pediatrician.

You'll also want to see a doctor if over-the-counter medicines just aren't cutting it or if you start coughing or wheezing because of allergies.

"I wouldn't go with any the over-the-counter medications for asthma-like symptoms," Dr. Barnes says.

Also consider using combinations of different treatments, she says. Maybe Zyrtec and Nasacort is the perfect combo, maybe Allegra and eye drops. Really, whatever works.

"You're going to have to find out what works best for you. Most of the time it's by trial and error," Merrill says.

Before piling on several medications, though, it is best to see a doctor, especially if you have blood pressure or heart problems. There are some OTC medicines you'll want to avoid, and your doctor can tell you which ones.

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