The gold standard of treatment recommended by many allergists is nasal steroid sprays. Dr. Pulver found that newer prescription drugs -- such as Nasonex, Rhinocort, Flonase, and Nasacort -- were four times more effective than older antihistamines at preventing and treating symptoms. Particularly good for severe cases, these sprays relieve itching, sneezing, runny nose, and nasal congestion -- mainly through an anti-inflammatory effect. Researchers have also found that nasal steroids can improve sleep and reduce daytime fatigue among people with year-round allergic rhinitis. Many allergists recommend patients use a combination of a steroid nasal spray with an oral antihistamine.
Saline nasal spray is another potent weapon against allergies. A spray can loosen nasal mucus and moisten nasal passages. Antihistamines can now be directed at the nose, thanks to Astelin, the first antihistamine nasal spray approved in this country. Like the oral varieties, this medication is more effective when used regularly. But unlike oral antihistamines, Astelin seems to also improve nasal congestion.
Whichever medication you take, it's best to start a couple of weeks before allergy season begins. "Premedication blocks allergic reactions," says Dr. Pulver. For best results, use an antihistamine (oral or nasal) or a nasal steroid daily. And be patient. Give your treatment course up to four weeks before raising the white flag.