Welcome spring (and hay fever)!

I love that first warm touch of spring. But the red, itchy eyes and drippy nose I can do without.

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 16.9 million adults and 6.7 million children were diagnosed with hay fever. Every year, Americans spend billions of dollars on prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications in the quest for relief.

I suffer from hay fever, too, but I am not a fan of most of the available medications. Prescription drugs are expensive, and require a costly visit to the doctor. Over-the-counter drugs (and there are dozens of them!) are pretty expensive, too, even the generics. Besides expense, I think these medications can actually make symptoms worse, or cause other unpleasant side effects.

Antihistamines such as Allegra and Zyrtec claim to be non-drowsy. You are urged to take them daily for best symptom control. But common side effects include dry mouth and dry eyes, making your red, itchy eyes even more red and painful.

Decongestants, such as Sudafed, can also cause dryness of the mouth, eyes and nasal passages. Nose bleeds are not uncommon when taking decongestants. Other frequent side effects are light-headedness and rapid heart rate.

Some products are combinations of these two medications. Others include a pain reliever, as well, such as Advil or Tylenol. I posted a few months ago about the hidden danger of over-dosing on Tylenol when taking combination drugs.

Related post: Don’t overdose on acetaminophen!

For my allergies (and I am cursed with year-round allergies), I like to use a neti pot on a regular basis to wash pollen and other allergens out of my nasal passages. The warm saline rinse also keeps my nasal tissue hydrated and healthy.

Related post: The amazing neti pot

I also use preservative-free eye drops to keep my eyes moist, and a warm, wet washcloth for symptom relief. If the itchiness is really bothersome, I use over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops (Zaditor/ketotifen). One drop once or twice a day, for one or two days, really helps. However, I don’t use them more frequently because they contain a potentially irritating preservative, BAK.

Related post: The eyes have it

As for medications, I do keep plain, cheap, generic Benadryl (diphenhydramine) in my medicine cabinet. I don’t often use it for hay fever, but it’s a great antihistamine for other allergic reactions, such as hives. It does cause drowsiness and is best taken at night.

Seasonal allergies are hard to avoid as the spring breezes blow pollen from one yard to another. Luckily, the symptoms usually abate as the blossoms fall.

If you suffer from hay fever, try starting with the simplest and least expensive treatments first, such as the neti pot, before spending a lot of money on doctors and prescription meds.


Frugal Nurse

Neti pots for allergies:


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