One of my favorite authors is Ilona Andrews, a husband and wife team who live in south-central Texas and write great fiction. This week in their blog they mentioned how Gordon was struggling with his chronic allergies, and how he was hoping they could eventually move to a place where he could get a break from them.
From my 40 years as a pharmacist, I remember the days when we had far fewer options to relieve symptoms of “hay fever” or allergic rhinitis. Today we have steroid nasal sprays and non-sedating antihistamines. Back 20-30 years ago, people needing antihistamines every day of the year to tame their stuffy nose, runny nose, itchy eyes and sinus pressure had a dilemma.
While some folks could take same antihistamine all year long, others got good results at first, then the medicine would just stop working. Most of the time, they could fix that by just switching to another antihistamine. Which worked for a while, until THAT one quit working for them, too.
The medical term for this is tachyphylaxis, which means being effective for a short time, then suddenly no long working at all. If you only take an antihistamine for 2 months, like I do during ragweed season, you aren’t likely to notice it, but if, like Gordon, you need to take antihistamines year-round, you’d have to switch to a different antihistamine every time the one you were on stopped working.
But here’s the weird thing. After being off an antihistamine for several months, when you restarted it, it would work! Back then, it was not unusual for people with year-round allergies to cycle through 2 or 3 different antihistamines through the year, on each one for 3-6 months.
Today we have newer antihistamines like Claritin® (loratadine), Allegra® (fexofenadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine) with 3 major advantages over older medicines: They rarely cause drowsiness, you only have to take them once a day, and they rarely quit working on you. But rarely doesn’t mean never. It’s possible that Gordon could improve his allergy symptoms just by switching his current antihistamine for a different one.
My personal favorite allergy medicine is an older one called Actifed® (triprolidine and pseudoephedrine), which doesn’t cause much drowsiness and really helps dry up a runny nose. It has the original Sudafed® ingredient that you have to sign for. Unfortunately, when my husband ran out of it while in Dayton, Ohio, he went to pharmacy after pharmacy and the pharmacists looked at him like he was loony because they had never heard of it!
Another strategy for relieving symptoms is desensitizing yourself to what you’re allergic to. If most of your allergies are from plant-based pollens, eating local raw honey can make a difference. The trick is to get locally sourced honey, usually available at your local farmer’s market.
Here are 5 Suggestions for Relief of Year-Round Allergies:
1. Rotate your antihistamines.
Try switching to another antihistamine whenever you notice an increase in your symptoms. If you are taking Claritin®, try Zyrtec® or even Actifed® instead. Benadryl® causes more drowsiness than other antihistamines, and is sold as a sleep aid.
2. Use a steroid nasal spray.
Nasal sprays are the most effective treatment for your round allergies, and nearly all of the nasal sprays that used to be prescription are available without a prescription at their full strength.
3. Try Actifed® (triprolidine/pseudoephedrine).
This antihistamine and decongestant combination that works for both a stuffy AND a runny nose at the same time. You’ll probably need to go to an independent pharmacy and ask them to special order it for you.
4. Stick to the original formula of Sudafed®.
Sudafed® did a big switch a few years ago to a different medicine, phenylephrine instead of pseudoephedrine. If Gordon has switched to the over-the-counter Sudafed® that you find on the shelf, he could be suffering needlessly because that stuff doesn’t work! The federal government restricted pseudoephedrine because it was widely used for methamphetamine manufacturing. Phenylephrine is the weak substitute on the shelf in its place, which is only 1/3 as potent as pseudoephedrine. If you are serious about allergy relief, it’s worth it to sign for products with pseudoephedrine.
5. Try raw local honey.
This can be very helpful for some people, it’s relatively inexpensive and tastes great. The suggested dose is 1 teaspoon once up to three times daily. I do NOT recommend substituting bee pollen or other concentrated bee products, because they can trigger your allergy instead of calming it down.
Dr. Louise Achey, Doctor of Pharmacy is a 40-year veteran of pharmacology and author of Why Dogs Can’t Eat Chocolate: How Medicines Work and How YOU Can Take Them Safely. Check out her NEW website TheMedicationInsider.com for daily tips on how to take your medicine safely.
2020 Louise Achey
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