The Spring months of April and May mark the peak of what many experience as allergy hell in Davis. Hundreds of folks retreat into their homes with red eyes, sneezing noses, and fatigued limbs.
Head down to a local pharmacy for medication, or one of the other remedies:
- Claritin (loratadine), Allegra (fexofenadine), and Zyrtec (cetirizine) are allergy medications that are available without a prescription. They relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies to different degrees with very little to no drowsiness compared to older allergy medications. They can relieve nasal allergy symptoms as well as itchy watery eyes. They can also be used to treat hives and itching. Some people consider Claritin to be the least effective at reducing allergy symptoms. However, the effects of these medications depends entirely on the individual. Zyrtec can cause much more drowsiness than Claritin and can cause extreme thirst in some people. Claritin and Allegra advertise themselves as "non-drowsy." Allegra is much more expensive than the other two medications. Some people find that Allegra to be more effective than Claritin.
Many doctors prescribe a combination of Flonase nasal spray along with either Allegra or Claritin for the most effective non-drowsy treatment of allergy symptoms. You can get this combination of a highly effective nasal spray and allergy tablet over the counter by taking Flonase or Nasacort nasal spray along with Allegra or Claritin. Nasacort is said to be as effective as prescription strength Flonase and Nasacort is available without a prescription. Allegra cannot be taken with fruit juice as it may affect absorption. Claritin can be taken with or without food. However, some claim that Claritin is better absorbed on an empty stomach. It may also be a good idea to wait an hour or 2 before eating or else the Claritin will not be as effective. You can always take Claritin at bedtime since most people do not eat right before bedtime. Zyrtec may be taken with or without food. Allergists sometimes recommend combining different medicines, so one could, e.g., take Claritin in the morning and Zyrtec at night, although again, drowsiness may occur and this can be dangerous if you are driving a car, riding a bike, or operating dangerous machinery. It is generally recommended to take only one allergy medicine at a time or else drowsiness could cause you to fall asleep during the day.
Please note that Benadryl (generic is diphenhydramine) is also an allergy medication, however it causes extreme drowsiness and it is used as a sleeping pill. Driving and taking Benadryl can be dangerous. Benadryl and its generic are found in many cough and cold/allergy medications. You could accidentally overdose on this if you are combing several different allergy or cold medications. Benadryl is also used for severe allergic reactions and hives. For example, if you are severely allergic to nuts and you are having hives and difficulty breathing you could take Benadryl to help with these symptoms if you cannot get to a hospital right away. Benadryl works to treat hives and allergic reactions much faster than Zyrtec, Allegra, or Claritin.
If you are worried about drowsiness with these medications, you can always take them at bedtime. Remember pollen levels are the highest late at night and in the early morning, so taking the medications at night will make sure you are protected when you wake up.
- Kaiser Permanente offers generic Claritin (loratadine) and generic Zyrtec. This is usually cheaper than any drug store and non-Kaiser members can purchase these also at the same low price from the shelf. Also, they have an allergy kit that contains Sudafed and an antihistamine.
- Costco will net you a Kirkland brand bottle with hundreds of loratadine (generic Claritin) tablets for a reasonably low price. Same goes for cetirizine (generic Zyrtec) or the sleep-inducing diphenhydramine (generic Benadryl). However, you might be buying more pills than you need and you would need to use them for next year's allergy season as well. Benadryl and its generic diphenhydramine are sold as sleep aid pills, but they also treat allergy symptoms as well as hives from allergic reactions. Taking Benadryl could be dangerous if you expect to drive or ride a bike since it is also sold as a sleeping pill; however, if your allergies are really knocking you on your back anyway, taking just one Benadryl (rather than the maximum two) may provide some relief without putting you completely to sleep (although you probably still shouldn't drive).
- Flonase and its generic (fluticasone) is a nasal spray that is very effective against nasal allergy symptoms. Loratadine (generic Claritin) isn't as strong, and so Flonase works better for some people. However, loratadine is a general anti-histamine and thus may help reduce all types of allergic reactions such as hives. The nasal spray only relieves allergy symptoms involving the nose. You will still get red and itchy eyes. However, loratadine (Claritin) will relieve allergy symptoms throughout the entire body as will Zyrtec and Allegra. Remember, that the generic equivalent contains the same active ingredient and is much cheaper. You can always use a nasal spray such as Flonase at the same time as taking Claritin or other pills. The combination will provide even better allergy relief.
- Nasacort is a over the counter nasal spray that works in the same way as Flonase. Many people say that Nasacort is as effective as Flonase.
- Veramyst is another similar nasal spray to Flonase for nasal allergy symptoms. Prescription only. This is sometimes not covered by insurance companies while the generic for Flonase may be covered.
- Nasonex is yet another nasal spray for allergy symptoms. Prescription only. This is sometimes not covered by insurance companies while the generic for Flonase may be covered.
- Nasalcrom (cromolyn) is a non-prescription nasal spray that doesn't cause drowsiness. However, it is not as strong as prescription nasal sprays. It also requires more sprays per day. Available without a prescription.
- Zaditor, Alaway, and the generic ketotifen is a bottle of eye drops used to treat itching eyes from allergic reactions. No prescription is required. These drops start to work in minutes. Zaditor and Alaway are better because you can use them everyday. Other types of cheaper allergic eye drops can be harmful if you use them for more than a few days.
- Singulair is another drug that can be prescribed for seasonal allergies, even though it is better known as an asthma drug. Some studies indicate that Singulair + loratadine is almost as effective as Flonase but with fewer side effects.
- Using nasal saline spray a couple of times per day and then blowing your nose is helpful for allergies because it washes pollen and dust from your nasal cavity.
- Saline eye drops alleviates allergy-induced dryness and burning of the eyeballs.
- Hydration helps a sore burning throat. Ricola throat lozenges and/or Cold-Eeze zinc tablets are used if you have a cold, but may not help much with allergies.
- Avoiding certain foods helps. Melons and cucumbers, for example, are known to aggravate allergies to pollen, dust, and airborne particulate matter.
- Personal steam machines are helpful for allergies.
- Local raw honey is argued by some to help a bit with pollen allergies. Find it at Pedrick Produce, the Davis Food Co-op and the Davis Farmers Market. The theory behind this is that by eating small amounts of pollen that you will build tolerance to this pollen and not have an allergic reaction to this pollen. The danger is that by eating something that you are allergic to you could suffer an anaphylactic reaction and stop breathing. Your throat will swell up and prevent you from breathing. Honey that is produced in other parts of the U.S. will be of little use since it would contain different pollens. Cooked honey, such as name brand versions of honey are usually filtered to remove pollen or bee's wings. They may also be pasteurized and therefore will not have any benefits. Others, however, challenge the effectiveness of consuming raw honey, since the pollen that produces nasal allergies is carried by the wind whereas pollen carried by bees is the heavier kind. Therefore there is very little of the nasal allergy pollen in honey and it is unlikely to be of any help. Allergy shots have a precise amount of the allergy causing substance and even then it could take years to produce any effect. Using honey on your own would most likely not help at all.
- Herbal remedies include nettles and Quercetin, which can both be purchased in capsule form at the Davis Food Co-op.
- Other non-medication interventions include using a Netti Pot to clear your sinuses (sold at the Davis Food Co-op). It feels weird but it works. Netti pots have been linked to brain-eating amoebas (Naegleria fowleri) which have killed several people. The brain-eating amoeba were found in tap water that came from unfiltered groundwater sources in Arizona and ordinary tap water in Louisiana. Never use tap water from unfiltered groundwater taken from southern/warmer states or ordinary tap water in Netti pots. Only use sterile, distilled, or previously boiled water. Netti pots need to thoroughly irrigated and allowed to completely air dry before use in order to kill any amoeba, should you choose to use unfiltered groundwater or tap water from places like Arizona or Louisiana. The brain eating amoeba live in warm water lakes and rivers. People have caught the amoeba just by swimming in warm water in Southern states and tropical countries (including a childhood friend of JabberWokky).
- Some forms of Chinese medicine and facial acupuncture may also be used as treatments by allergy sufferers.
- If you have a ridiculously runny nose, take the time to go to a pharmacy counter and ask for the real Pseudoephedrine (brand names is Sudafed) based nasal decongestants which are only sold at the pharmacist counter. Everything on the shelves outside of the pharmacy has been replaced with Phenylephrine which is not nearly as effective. Sudafed and its generic are decongestants which help to relieve running noses and congestion. Please note that due to federal regulations you are limited to only a certain number of grams of pseudoephedrine every 30 days. You are required by federal regulations to show government issued photo IDs and sign for your purchases.
- If your allergies are extreme you can always get allergy shots from Dr. Brown at the Sutter West Medical Group or, if you are a UC student, the Student Health and Wellness Center. They really do work!! But you have to get them for a few years in order to build up tolerance to pollen.
- If severe, try filtering the air you breathe to reduce your exposure to pollen and other irritants. This can be done by using air conditioning or air filtration machines. Be cautious of air purifiers which release ozone. It has been found that those machines release pollution equivalent to a high pollution smog alert level. Ozone doesn't make the air any more pure, it just pollutes the air that you breathe. When outside, try wearing a surgical mask.
- Avoid the outdoors during the morning hours when pollen levels are at their highest. Take allergy medication right before the highest pollen levels.
- When you drive or ride in a car, make sure you turn on the air conditioner which will help to filter out the pollen from the air. Keep the windows closed to keep pollen out.
- Wash your face or at least wipe your face with a damp paper towel. Pollen can accumulate on your face or in your hair and continue to cause allergy symptoms even though you are not outside.
- Before you go to bed, try taking one (or two) of the old-fashioned sleep-inducing anti-histamines like Benadryl. Benadryl and its generic diphenhydramine are used to treat allergic reactions, hives, and allergies, but are also used as sleep aid pills.
- Pollen levels are highest in the morning and at night. Close your windows tightly at night to prevent the pollen from coming in. You can turn on the air conditioner to filter the air. Don't hang your clothes outside to dry. The pollen will fall on your clothes and lead to more allergy symptoms.
- If you're home for the day, take a shower to wash the pollen off of you, or at least change your clothes.
- There are steps to take to make your place of residence more resistant to allergens or allergy causing particles. Carpeting can trap allergens and pollen. The older the carpet, the more allergens that will be trapped. Opt instead for vinyl flooring, wood flooring, or tile. Curtains also trap allergens. Choose easy to clean window shades or easy to clean blinds. When it comes to furniture, fabric furniture can trap allergens and pollen. Choose vinyl, leather, pleather, synthetic, or plastic furniture instead. Keep surfaces of furniture clean and dust often. Also keep knickknacks, decorative pieces, and artwork to a minimum. These items can be covered in allergens and trap pollen in cracks and crevices. Avoid tapestries, fabric wall decorations, and wool wall decorations. These also trap allergens and pollen. Clean under the bed and furniture. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to filter out allergens and pollen. Keep everything spotless and free of dust. Vacuum the walls and ceilings because walls can get covered in a layer of allergens and pollens. Clean light fixtures as they can also trap allergens and pollens. Remove spider webs as they can soak up dust, pollen, and allergens. Also clean computer monitors and computers. These devices can be filled with layers of dust, allergens, and pollens. Clean portable fans and ceiling fans. Don't forget those air conditioning ducts and vents. Clean them often as they can be filled with allergens, dust, and pollen. Change the filter on the air conditioner often. Clean out those humidifier filters. Sweep the floors everyday as the floor can be covered in dirt, dust, allergens, and pollen that is tracked in from the outside. Clean shoes and slippers. They may also track in the allergens. Once you take care of your place of residence you too can breathe easier.