The best treatment is to avoid what causes your allergic symptoms in the first place. It may be impossible to completely avoid all your triggers, but you can often take steps to reduce exposure.
There are many different medications available to treat allergic rhinitis. Which one your doctor prescribes depends on the type and severity of your symptoms, your age, and whether you have other medical conditions (such as asthma).
For mild allergic rhinitis, a nasal wash can be helpful for removing mucus from the nose. You can purchase a saline solution at a drug store or make one at home using one cup of warm water, half a teaspoon of salt, and pinch of baking soda.
Treatments for allergic rhinitis include:
Antihistamines work well for treating allergy symptoms, especially when symptoms do not happen very often or do not last very long.
* Antihistamines taken by mouth can relieve mild to moderate symptoms, but can cause sleepiness. Many may be bought without a prescription. Talk to your doctor before giving these medicines to a child, as they may affect learning.
* Newer antihistamines cause little or no sleepiness. Some are available over the counter. They usually do not interfere with learning. These medications include fexofenadine (Allegra), and cetirizine (Zyrtec).
* Azelastine (Astelin) is a antihistamine nasal spray that is used to treat allergic rhinitis.
* Nasal corticosteroid sprays are the most effective treatment for allergic rhinitis.
* They work best when used nonstop, but they can also be helpful when used for shorter periods of time.
* Many brands are available. They are safe for children and adults.
* Decongestants may also be helpful in reducing symptoms such as nasal congestion.
* Nasal spray decongestants should not be used for more than 3 days.
* Be careful when using over-the-counter saline nasal sprays that contain benzalkonium chloride. These may actually worsen symptoms and cause infection.
* The leukotriene inhibitor Singulair is a prescription medicine approved to help control asthma and to help relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
Specific illnesses that are caused by allergies (such as asthma and eczema) may require other treatments.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are occasionally recommended if the allergen cannot be avoided and if symptoms are hard to control. This includes regular injections of the allergen, given in increasing doses (each dose is slightly larger than the previous dose) that may help the body adjust to the antigen.
Most symptoms of allergic rhinitis can be treated. More severe cases require allergy shots.
Some people (particularly children) may outgrow an allergy as the immune system becomes less sensitive to the allergen. However, as a general rule, once a substance causes allergies for an individual, it can continue to affect the person over the long term.
Calling Your Health Care Provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if severe symptoms of allergies or hay fever occur, if previously successful treatment has become ineffective, or if your symptoms do not respond to treatment.
Reviewed By : A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Stuart I. Henochowicz, MD, FACP, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology, Georgetown University Medical School (5/25/2009).