Achoos Away!

Keep allergy symptoms in check by knowing what to grab at the pharmacy aisles.  Flowers never smelled more beautiful!

It’s the time of the year again,  where May showers certainly bring May flowers.  But along with those come what most people try to avoid: allergies!  The red eyes, sniffling, sneezing, and a nose that drips more than a leaky faucet.  Luckily, there are many options to help tame the sniffles so you can relax and breathe a little better.


How do they work?    People who have sensitivities to allergens,  such as pollen, dust, animal dander,  kickstarts the body’s immune system.  Specific cells in the body called mast cells release chemical irritants called histamine when they are exposed to allergens.  Histamine attaches to blood vessels and other receptors in the body,  and this causes actions such as itchy red eyes, fluid secretion changes and the runny nose,  redness,  and possibly muscle spasm that may cause throat tightening.  Antihistamine medications act by preventing histamines from attaching themselves to the body’s cells so itchiness, watering, and  swelling is reduced. 

What should you know?  Antihistamines come is forms of pills, gel tabs, liquid, eye drops, and nasal sprays,  depending on a person’s individual needs. 

Visine-A has the active ingredient Pheniramine to help relieve itchy, red, watery eyes.  It’s safe to use for a few days,  but quit use if you feel any pressure on the eyes and consult a doctor.

Diphenhydramine is an active ingredient in Benadryl, Aler-Tab, Chlor-Trimeton It is used to help relieve minor coughs, sneezing, airway irritation, and nasal drains from allergies.  The main side effect is drowsiness,  so don’t drive or operate heavy or dangerous machinery if taking diphenhydramine.  You may want to ask about non-sedating anti-histamines to avoid drowsiness.

Claritin‘s active ingredient is Loratidine,  and also helps with allergy symptoms,  but virtually doesn’t cause drowsiness.  Watch out for side effects such as headache, dry mouth, and upset stomach.  Also note that certain drugs and supplements may have interactions with Claritin.  St. John’s Wart,  for example, decreases it’s effectiveness so discuss any drugs or supplements with your doctor or pharmacist before taking this medication.


How do they work? When histamines make their way in the bloodstream and attach to blood vessels, nasal tissues, and mucous membranes, they cause the blood vessels to swell.  This causes feelings of congestion, stuffiness, and excess drainage. Decongestants act to decrease swelling by causing vessels to vasoconstrict (shrink),  so that passageways are opened.  

What should you know? Decongestants are usually used along with antihistamines because they work together synergistically.  Decongestants also come in nasal sprays, liquid, and pill form.  Note however, that nasal sprays should only be used short-term for a few days because long-term use can worsen symptoms. 

Sudafed’s active ingredient is Pseudophedrine and acts to vasoconstrict vessels in the lungs, mucus membranes,  even the heart.  Therefore,  some people may feel their heart beat faster than normal when they take this medication. Elevations in blood pressure may also occur,  due to its effects on blood vessels.  Talk to your doctor if you are taking other drugs such as MAO Inhitbitors (monoamine oxidase inhibitors, usually found in anti-depressants), since interactions with these drugs may cause serious effects.  Watch out for side effects such as headache, dizziness, and difficulty urinating.


Claritin-D and Zyrtec-D includes a decongestant along with an anti-histamine.

Afrin contains Oxymetazoline and is a nasal spray decongestant that acts to shrink swollen, irritated blood vessels.  It works almost immediately since it goes straight to the source. People may experience a slight stinging,  but because it doesn’t travel through the bloodtream,  people experience fewer adverse reactions.  But it’s important to know that it can only be used for up to three days,  because it will end up irritating the nasal lining and cause rebound congestion from closure of the passages.

OTC Producs

Sometimes simple solutions offer better results,  and don’t cause side effects because they don’t contain any medications.  Normal Saline,  found in products such as Sinucleanse and Ocean, is a simple salt water solution that relieves allergy symptoms by loosening up dried mucus particles and encrustation. It can be used up to two weeks,  since it may irritate the nasal passages.  Artificial tears contain no medications and are used to lubricate dry, red, irritated eyes.  

Allergy Shots

Also known as Immunotherapy,  allergy shots work by gradually exposing the body to increasing levels of an allergen to help build tolerance.   Each shot contains tiny amounts of allergic substance(s) that stimulate the immune system,  but not enough to trigger a full-blown allergic reaction. Allergen doses are increased gradually over time so that the body becomes desensitized to it,  and eventually allergic symptoms diminish.  

With your allergies under control, go ahead and brave the outdoors! Take that walk in the park, bask in the sunshine,  and smell the beautiful roses without fear of sniffling, sneezing, and stuffy nose.


Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, 10th Ed.

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Online Editor, Beauty Writer at Beauty-Goodies
As a New York City-based registered nurse with backgrounds in pharmacology, medical research, medical spa aesthetics, and cosmetic dermatology, Cristal became interested in the ways people go about achieving beauty. When she's not working full-time at Cornell Medical Center or performing aesthetic treatments at a midtown NYC medical spa, she daylights as a beauty writer, and has a penchant for scoring sample sale treasures, bellydancing, playing dress-up, and of course, chatting about beauty goodies.

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