Allergies: Is Treatment Worse Than The Problem?
For many allergic people, it’s a no-brainer. Antihistamines help itch but make you fall asleep. Decongestants open the airways but keep you awake. Prescription eye drops are relaxing but cost a fortune. Steroids work wonders but cause weight gain and bloating.
Is there a way to cure allergies without experiencing side effects?
For most people the answer is yes, although it may take some experiment. Here are three medications you can trust to provide significant relief with minimal side effects.
1. Clarinex . Clarinex is the most recent addition to the class of non-sedative antihistamines. This group includes Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec and generics of the same. Claritin and Zyrtec were originally on prescription, but are now available over the counter. Allegra and Clarinex remain on prescription only. Non-sedative antihistamines have been developed in response to the most common complaint about the use of antihistamines, i.e. sleepiness. Sedative antihistamines are still available (Benadryl, chlorpheniramine and others) and remain useful for allergic symptoms at night. They are the soothing ingredients in OTC sleep aids.
Clarinex is the only non-sedative antihistamine not yet available in generic form and is therefore the most expensive, with over $ 100 for a month of therapy. Check online on the Clarinex website for options to cut down on out-of-pocket expenses. You might want to consider trying loratadine (generic Claritin) or another generic for less than $ 10 a month.
2. NasalCrom . Another drug that was previously a prescription drug, the NasalCrom over the counter nasal spray (sodium cromolyn) works by making your nose less sensitive to allergens (pollen, hair, dust and other particles that you are allergic to). In this respect it is similar to nasal steroids (such as Flonase, Nasacort, Nasonex), which currently work from $ 60 to $ 120 per month. With a cost below $ 20, NasalCrom is a real bargain.
Each of these inhalation medications is intended to prevent rather than treat the symptoms of nasal itching, drainage and congestion. They all work better when taken regularly. If you wait to experience symptoms to use them, you may find them ineffective. If you only need medication on an occasional basis, you’re probably better off using Clarinex or another of the non-sedative antihistamines.
3. Singulair . When Singulair was first released, it was intended only as an asthma drug. However, asthma often has an allergic component and the drug is especially useful in people suffering from both asthma and allergies. A few years ago it received the indication for use even in non-asthmatic allergic patients.
In general, Singulair does not cause drowsiness nor does it have the similar effect to caffeine typical of decongestants. Similar to inhaled steroids and NasalCrom, it is better to prevent allergic symptoms than to treat them. It is currently only available on prescription at a cost of approximately $ 130 per month of supply. The manufacturer offers savings options on the Singulair website.
The above drugs can be used alone or in combination. They are not the only options available nor the least expensive, but all three are reliable enough in providing relief of symptoms without annoying side effects.
Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD