10 New Solutions for Seasonal Allergies You Haven’t Heard of Yet
They're the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Here are solutions for people who think they've tried it all.
Reach for a nasal steroid spray first
Your allergy solution may be much simpler than you think: In 2017 guidelines from the Joint Task Force (a coalition from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology), the experts recommended that patients start with a nasal steroid spray because it's best for quelling symptoms. However, if your symptoms don't respond, check out the options below—and chat with your doctor—to come up with the best allergy-fighting cocktail for you.
Make sure you're not falling for these common allergy myths.
Try a dry spray
If you can't tolerate traditional liquid nasal sprays, chat with your doctor about the dry aerosol nasal steroid spray Q-Nasl, says Derrick Ward, MD, of Kansas City Allergy & Asthma Associates. This prescription med targets seasonal and year-round allergies when used once daily. One hitch, Dr. Ward points out, is that many insurance companies require patients to try over-the-counter meds first; it can be a challenge to get a Q-Nasl prescription covered. Still, if you're avoiding using liquid sprays because of the comfort factor, talk to your doctor about this option.
Check out newer medications
Though the FDA approved the indoor-outdoor allergy treating medication Xyzal in 2007, it's only been available for without a prescription since fall 2017 fall of 2017. The oral antihistamine is designed to provide 24-hour coverage for symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, and nose or throat itching seasonally or year-round.
Take meds in advance
Don't wait until you're sneezing up a storm to take allergy medication. New York City allergist and immunologist Clifford Bassett, MD, author of The New Allergy Solution, recommends beginning allergy medication up to two weeks prior to the season kicking in. He puts his patients on allergy alert; your doctor can inform you more specifically about when you should start. Try these tricks to keep your summer sneeze-free.
Allergy shots have been around for a century and can work well. However, allergists can now offer sublingual therapy: You place a tablet under your tongue daily that contains small amounts of the allergen. It builds tolerance so that your body no longer reacts to it. You can get sublingual pills for both ragweed and grass pollen allergies, and there's a new sublingual treatment for dust mites called Odactra. "This is nice for patients who don't want to do allergy shots or don't have time to come in and get them," says Dr. Ward. For grass and ragweed allergies, you'll need to start treatment three to four months prior to the onset of the season, so plan ahead.
Ask your doctor about drops
Some doctors are using sublingual drops (they contain the same active ingredients as allergy shots) for allergy immunotherapy, explains Dr. Ward. The drops allow docs to treat a broader range of allergies than they could with the sublingual pills, he says, but the treatment is off-label—it hasn't yet been approved by the FDA. If you want to try this approach, you'll need to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist or your general practitioner; also note that insurance is unlikely to cover the cost.
Think about alternative treatments
There are some natural therapies out there that may help you get relief from symptoms, though even the promising ones have very little data to back their use. One treatment you may want to try is acupuncture: A trial found a small improvement in the quality of life for seasonal sufferers, says Dr. Bassett. He also recommends eating more quercetin-rich foods (like apples, onions), an antioxidant that "studies show may provide a small benefit to eye and nasal symptoms," he says. Another natural approach Dr. Bassett suggests is applying a petrolatum-based ointment (like Vaseline) near your nostrils a few times a day to block pollen from entering your nose. Here are some more alternative allergy remedies.
Get allergy tested
You may know you're allergic to something—but not know exactly what. Is it pollen? Grass? Mold? Dust mites? That's why getting tested to pinpoint exactly what's bothering you is so important, says Dr. Ward. With that info, you can tailor your treatments to deal with the exact culprit, which is far more effective than guessing.
The need for testing, part two
Even with the advancements in sublingual therapy, it doesn't guarantee you can go shot-free. The other benefit to allergy testing is that it will help you choose between sublingual therapy and allergy shots. "If I test someone and they're allergic to multiple things, giving them a tablet for ragweed isn't really beneficial. But if they also have allergies to animals or dust mites, that's where allergy shots shine—I can put all of that in a shot," says Dr. Ward.
Personalized treatment approach
Sometimes, it can feel as if you're throwing everything you have at those spring allergies and getting nowhere. That's why an allergist's personalized treatment approach can be a game changer: "There are many, many strategies that are helpful, cost-effective, and will get the job done. It takes an extra few minutes to see an allergist who can create an individualized pollen calendar for you, which you can use to reduce and prevent symptoms," says Dr. Bassett. Ask your doctor how you can best prepare for the season ahead.