The Humerus NP
Practical Advice from an outspoken Nurse Practitioner
It's April. The daffodils and cherry blossoms are in full bloom and so is allergy season. I'm seeing patient after patient with hay fever, aka allergic rhinitis. You know the signs... red itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, scratchy throat, and coughing. These people walk in looking like zombies with allergic shiners and tissues stuck up their noses.
I used to be surprised to hear that my allergy patients had been taking OTC multi-symptom cold medications to treat their symptoms, but over the years I have learned that clever marketing tactics have overwhelmed the consumer and after looking at an endless sea of options, usually patients will choose a medicine that seems to be the strongest. If it has the word severe in the title, they are buying it. But I have a secret for you.......are you ready for this??? THEY'RE ALL VARIATIONS OF THE SAME THING! There is nothing special about severe cough and cold medication. From my experience, the active ingredients include a weak antihistamine, decongestant, cough suppressant and a fever reducer. These medications usually last only 4-6 hours and the symptoms return.
You may be wondering, as my patients often do, how should seasonal allergies be treated? Well, I'm glad you asked. When the human body encounters an allergen, such as pollen, it releases a chemical called histamine. So, it naturally makes sense to avoid the offending allergen. But when avoidance is not possible, an OTC antihistamine, can be used to treat allergy symptoms.
1. OTC nasal corticosteriod sprays, such as fluticasone (Flonase) and triamcinolone (Nasacort) are usually used as first line when treating seasonal allergies.
Pros: inexpensive & effective with limited potential side effects.
Cons: cannot be used in people with glaucoma and nose bleeds.
BEWARE: Avoid OTC decongestant nasal sprays, as they can result in rebound congestion and can become habit forming.
2. OTC oral antihistimines, such as loratidine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and levocetirizine (Xyzal) can be used with nasal corticosteriod sprays to treat moderate to severe seasonal allergies.
Pros: symptom relief for 24 hours, inexpensive and effective.
Cons: vary in strength and potential for sedation, they're listed above in order of non-drowsy to most sedating.
Until next time,
Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and I am not affiliated with or endorsing any of the above pharmaceuticals. Reference: http://www.aaaai.org.
**This is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be taken as medical advice, Always discuss medications with your primary care provider to determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs***
Melissa is a military spouse, mom, and professional boo boo fixer. She practices as a Nurse Practitioner in Northern Virginia and is passionate about teaching the public how to effectively respond in emergency situations. She founded Rapid Response CPR, LLC in 2017. She blogs to share her medical knowledge in a fun, yet practical way.
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