heading for relief indoors rather than enjoying the springtime weather.
A new survey shows 60% of people with springtime allergies have limited
success treating their itchy eyes, sinus pain, and scratchy throat. For nearly
one in five seasonal allergy sufferers the symptoms are so bad that they miss
Many of the respondents said none of the main strategies for coping with
allergy symptoms , including avoidance, prescription drugs , or over-the-counter
medications, were completely successful at relieving their allergy misery. The
survey did not include questions about allergy shots (immunotherapy).
Researchers say despite the millions of dollars spent on direct-to-consumer
marketing that promises instant relief from seasonal allergy symptoms, the
answer is rarely that simple.
"Seasonal allergies affect all parts of the upper respiratory system plus
the eyes," says Marvin Lipman, MD, chief medical adviser at Consumer
Reports, which conducted the survey, in a news release. "There's usually no
single magic bullet."
But getting advice from a doctor may help. The survey showed nearly 60% of
those who discussed their seasonal allergies with a health care provider said
they were highly satisfied with their treatment.
The survey, conducted in April 2009 with 1,814 adults in the U.S. who
typically experience spring seasonal allergies, showed that April and May were
the worst months for spring allergy sufferers.
Researchers found pollen was the most commonly cited source of seasonal
allergies (79%), followed by grasses (59%), ragweed (54%), and trees (52%).
Nearly a quarter of those surveyed reported allergies to each of these
Only 40% of spring allergy sufferers said they were completely or very
successful at managing their allergy symptoms in the previous allergy
Itchy eyes were the most common symptom (87%), followed by sneezing (80%),
runny nose (77%), and watery eyes (73%).
Nearly half of all respondents said their allergy symptoms, when at their
worst, interfered "a lot" with at least some aspect of their daily lives, such
as participating in outdoor activities, sleep, mobility, ability to think or
concentrate, social activities, and their relationship with their partner.
Looking for Allergy Relief
The results showed avoidance was the most popular type of treatment tried
(74%), followed by over-the-counter medicines (70%) and prescription drugs
Avoiding pollen and other allergens isn't always easy though. Researchers
found only one in five respondents was highly satisfied with the avoidance
measures they tried, such as staying inside with the air conditioner on and
doing outdoor activities on low-pollen days. But when these tactics worked,
they were more effective than taking over-the-counter medications.
Researchers say staying inside is most important between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.,
when allergen levels are highest. If the air conditioner is on, it should be
set to recirculate to reduce the amount of allergens entering the system.
The average number of allergy medicines used by the participants was three;
26% of respondents said they took five or more medications to treat their
Nearly two-thirds who used prescription or over-the-counter medicines
reported at least one side effect, such as drowsiness and dry mouth. Side
effect frequency was similar among the two groups -- 64% of those using
over-the counter medications and 65% of those taking prescription medication
experienced side effects.
Those who had discussed their seasonal allergies with a doctor were much
more likely to have taken a prescription allergy medication (84% vs. 48%). They
were also more likely to have found a highly satisfactory prescription
medication or avoidance measure to relieve their allergy symptoms.
The most popular rescription medications mentioned in the survey were
steroid nasal sprays, such as Flonase and Nasonex , and the
pill Singulair .
The over-the-counter allergy medications taken most often by people with
spring allergies were the antihistamines Benadryl Allergy, Claritin , and
Zyrtec , and the decongestant Sudafed .
By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Laura Martin
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