I never had allergies before—but I sure do now. What happened?
Just because you weren't sneezy as a teen doesn't mean you'll have an allergy-free adulthood. Eczema as an infant, wheezing as a baby or recurrent ear or sinus infections may have been signs of seasonal allergies to come, says Jacqueline Eghrari-Sabet, M.D., founder of Family Allergy & Asthma Care in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Environmental factors can also trigger them, so a change of location could be your undoing.
Why do I struggle with allergies year-round?
Allergy season is getting longer, with tree pollen running from January to June, grass from May to June, and weeds from August to November. And most people have multiple allergies, so you could also be reacting to indoor irritants (pet dander, mold, dust mites), explains James Sublett, M.D., president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Which meds won't make me drowsy?
Newer allergy drugs will not leave you dozing during your daughter's recital. To relieve an itchy, runny or congested nose, try a steroid nasal spray, like Nasacort Allergy 24HR (newly available over-the-counter) or get an Rx for one like Nasonex or Flonase. For broader symptoms such as watery eyes and itchiness, pick up a non-drowsy OTC oral antihistamine, like Claritin or Allegra.
If I don't want to take meds—or they don't work—what can I do?
Go holistic. For a stuffy nose, rinse your sinuses with a mild saline solution using a neti pot every few days. With body-wide reactions, consider the natural antihistamine vitamin C (500 mg) and the antioxidant quercetin (200-300 mg) three to four times daily, says Susanne Bennett, D.C., author of The 7-Day Allergy Makeover. And be sure to bump up your intake of foods high in these nutrients, like cherries, blackberries, parsley and broccoli.
Should I be getting allergy shots?
Consider them if you have moderate to severe allergies and can't control your symptoms. Similar to vaccines, the injections contain small amounts of allergens and your body builds tolerance. You may require weekly or monthly shots for several years. "They're 85% or more successful, a cost-saver for many and the closest thing we have to a cure," says Clifford W. Bassett, M.D., medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. If you hate needles, the FDA is set to approve immunotherapy in the form of a dissolvable tablet to treat ragweed and grass allergies. Either way, relief is around the corner.
Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.