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What If Your Allergy Medicine Isn't Kicking In? How Can You Find Faster Relief?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The burst of warmth over the past weekend had us flocking outside. Unfortunately, many were met with a burst of allergy symptoms.

A stroll around Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis features colorful blooms this time of year. Pretty on the eyes, but also rough on them.

When allergy symptoms get so intense, just taking the recommended dose can feel insufficient. So can we pop another tablet before the first runs its course? Allergist Dr. John Sweet with Hennepin Healthcare said if you're a kid under 6 years old or elderly, it could have adverse effects.

"Generally speaking, we recommend not to take higher than the recommended dose, but taking perhaps a second dose or an additional pill from a different antihistamine perhaps could be beneficial," Sweet said.

What about combining different antihistamines?

"Mixing antihistamines, anecdotally patients can report perhaps some benefit. We recommend if you're going to do that, spread them out, not take them simultaneously together," Sweet said.

That means taking a different antihistamine near the time the first is about to wear off. People can also take a short-acting med, like Benadryl, at night before bed after taking an antihistamine earlier in the day. If you plan to take multiple antihistamines, Dr. Sweet warns it could have sedating effects.

Allergy Medications
(credit: CBS)

"Zyrtec is metabolized by the kidney, or excreted through the kidney. So if you have any limited kidney function, that could lead to more problems and more sedation," he said.

What allergy meds should be taken together?

"I would strongly recommend instead of taking a second antihistamine, you actually take a different medication like a steroid nasal spray," Sweet said.

That's like taking a Claritin to start your day, plus a shot of Flonase in your nose if your symptoms persist. Saline solution is another nasal spray to try.
"That way you're attacking the allergic reaction from multiple sides and reducing inflammation in multiple ways," Sweet said.

It's a method Carl Chung follows.

"Right at breakfast I take the Flonase, and then I see if I'm having itchy eyes or something worse, then I'll take additional four-hour tablet on top of that," Chung said.

If you're waiting until your symptoms appear to take your meds, you're doing it wrong. Dr. Sweet says you need to think weeks ahead because you want the medication to build up in your system.

"Antihistamines are far more effective working as preventive medication than actually treating acute symptoms," he said.

Lastly, don't be afraid to change things up. Not everyone responds to allergy meds the same way. So give it up to two weeks to see if it's working, and make the switch if not.

"Sometimes it's a game of roulette to figure out what works best for you," Sweet said.

Other ways to calm your symptoms beyond medicine include washing your face and hair at night to rid yourself of pollen. You can also close your windows, especially on windy days, to keep those allergens out of your home.

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