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Ask a Pharmacist – Allergy Edition

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

Pharmacist surrounded by pills with text that reads Ask a Pharmacist

Allergy season is right around the corner! To prepare for allergy season, one of our pharmacists answered some frequently asked questions.

How can I tell if I have allergies or just a common cold?

Allergies are caused by the immune system’s response to allergens, things in an environment that cause irritation to the immune system, such as animal dander, pollen, dust, and mold. Some allergies are only bothersome with weather changes (cold to warm, dry to wet), while others are environmental and experienced year-round (pets, dust).

Colds begin when the body has been exposed to a virus that leads to an infection of the immune system. Colds traditionally last a few days and cause mild illness. Colds can happen any time of year, most people experience colds a few times a year.

  • Cold Symptoms: fatigue, aches and pains, sore throat, low-grade fever

  • Allergy symptoms: itchy eyes, breathing difficulties

  • Both: sneezing, coughing, congestion, runny nose

What are common treatments for allergies?

Nasal sprays such as Flonase and Nasacort are steroid nasal sprays used to reduce an allergic response. Saline nasal spray can also be beneficial to reduce congestion.

Non-drowsy antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), levocetirizine (Xyzal)and fexofenadine (Allegra) are helpful to reduce the body’s response to allergens.

How do steroid nasal sprays work?

Steroid nasal sprays are an effective treatment for most allergy symptoms. Steroid nasal sprays reduce the body's allergic response to allergens, reduce runny nose, postnasal drip, nasal congestion, and sneezing.

Do allergy shots work?

Allergy shots are administered at regular intervals to reduce severe allergy symptoms. Each allergy shot contains a small amount of the allergen to allow the body to build up immunity to the allergen and reduce symptoms. During treatment, the body is slowly introduced to allergens and allowed to build up immunity over a long time.

Can you take allergy pills and nasal spray together?

Yes. For some patients, the combination of an allergy medication (antihistamine) and nasal spray is necessary to reduce bothersome symptoms. Steroid nasal sprays are considered first-line treatment for allergies, but antihistamines can be highly effective to treat allergies and reduce symptoms. If you are sensitive to nasal sprays, antihistamines can be affective therapy alone.

Meet Your Tria Health Pharmacist

Maggie Lewis

Pharm.D., CDCES

Have More Questions?

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