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Additional Information From NIAID

Pollen Allergy

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Medicines to Treat Pollen Allergy

Because it is nearly impossible to avoid contact with pollen, you might be able to control your symptoms with medicines. You can buy some allergy medicines without a prescription. Most over-the-counter medicines are antihistamines. These medicines are often helpful in people who have mild disease. If these medicines don’t give you relief or they cause unwanted side effects, your healthcare professional may write a prescription for a more powerful medicine. For example, you may be prescribed a topical nasal steroid to take with an antihistamine. Some people with seasonal allergic rhinitis develop complications, including asthma and sinusitis. If these complications develop, it's important to see a healthcare professional.

Types of medicines available to treat pollen allergy symptoms include the following:

Antihistamines

Antihistamines have proven useful in relieving sneezing and itching in the nose and eyes and in reducing swelling and drainage in the nose because of pollen allergy.

Many people who take some types of antihistamines, available over the counter or by prescription, have some unwelcome side effects, such as drowsiness and loss of alertness and coordination. When children have such reactions, adults may interpret those reactions as behavior problems.

Effective antihistamines that cause fewer of these side effects are available over the counter or by prescription.

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Topical nasal steroids

Topical nasal steroids are anti-inflammatory medicines that inhibit the allergic reaction. The combination of antihistamines and nasal steroids is a very effective way to treat pollen allergy, especially if your reaction to pollen is moderate or severe.

You should not confuse topical nasal steroids with anabolic steroids, which athletes sometimes use to improve their performance. The chemicals in nasal steroids are different from those in anabolic steroids.

Although topical nasal steroids can have side effects, they are safe when used at the recommended doses and for the recommended times.

 

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Cromolyn sodium

Cromolyn sodium is a nasal spray that helps prevent allergic rhinitis from starting in some people. When used as a nasal spray, it can safely inhibit the release of chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. It has few side effects when used as directed and significantly helps some people manage their allergies.

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Decongestants

Decongestants can help shrink your nasal passages. This, in turn, can help relieve congestion, swelling, and general discomfort in the sinus areas caused by nasal allergies. Your healthcare professional may recommend using oral or nasal deconges­tants to reduce congestion, along with an antihistamine to control your symptoms.

You shouldn’t use over-the-counter or prescription decongestant nose drops and sprays for more than a few days. When you use them for longer periods, these medicines can lead to even more congestion and swelling inside your nose and sinuses.

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Last Updated October 17, 2011

Last Reviewed October 07, 2011