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A sufferer's guide to easin' sneezin' season

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(HealthDay News) -- When seasonal allergies strike, what remedy is right for you? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has some answers.

An allergy is your body's reaction to a substance it considers an invader. The body reacts to that invader by releasing chemicals called histamines, which cause the sneezing, wheezing and itchy, watery eyes that make life miserable, the FDA explains.

Antihistamines are available in many forms, including tablets and liquids. Many oral antihistamines are available over-the-counter (OTC) and some are available by prescription and in generic form, according to the FDA.

When choosing an OTC antihistamine, always follow label instructions, said Dr. Jenny Kelty, a pediatric pulmonologist at the FDA.

Some can cause drowsiness and interfere with your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. Others do not have this side effect, she noted in an FDA news release.

Nasal corticosteroids are allergy medicines typically sprayed into the nose once or twice a day. Side effects may include stinging in the nose.

Decongestants are another choice and are available both by prescription and over-the-counter. They are available as nasal sprays or pills. Decongestants are sometimes recommended along with antihistamines, which do not reduce nasal congestion on their own.

But be forewarned: Using decongestant nose sprays and drops more than a few days can cause a "rebound" effect, meaning your nasal congestion could get worse. These drugs are more useful for short-term use, the FDA says.

Before giving children an over-the-counter product, check the label.

"Some products can be used in children as young as 2 years, but others are not appropriate for children of any age," Kelty said.

Talk to your health care provider if your child needs to use nasal steroid spray for more than two months a year, she advised.

If other medications don't help, immunotherapy may be more effective, the news release noted. One type is allergy shots; another type uses tablets.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on seasonal allergies.

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