Beat your allergies this year without fear of nodding off at your desk.
Brian T. Horowitz 1 / 11
10 Allergy Remedies That Won’t Make You Drowsy
Allergies are the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, and more than 50 million Americans struggle with allergy symptoms each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With allergy season arriving, there’s no need to suffer with either the drowsiness of over-the-counter medications or the allergy symptoms affecting the eyes, lungs, nose, throat, sinuses, ears, skin or stomach.
“Poorly controlled allergies affect the eyes and nose and really affect sleep quality, affect energy levels and work performance, and can really decrease quality of life if you’re miserable all the time,” says Dr. David Stukus, an allergist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the board of directors for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “A lot of people think that’s the way to live, and they can do better.”
Antihistamines known to cause drowsiness include chlorpheniramine, which can “affect your reaction time and your ability to think quickly,” says Stukus.
Here are 10 remedies for dealing with allergy symptoms without feeling sedated.
Drops contain antihistamines to stabilize allergy cells in the eyes and don’t cause drowsiness, says Stukus. Prescription eye drops such as Patanol, or its generic form olopatadine, keep the allergy cells from releasing histamines, the chemicals that cause eye itching and swelling. Drops can eliminate these symptoms and calm down the allergic reaction, notes Stukus.
Allegra and Claritin are antihistamine options that don’t make you drowsy, says Stukus. Allegra can treat sneezing, a runny nose, watery eyes and an itchy throat. In addition, Allegra can help with chronic skin hives and itching. Claritin also treats hay fever symptoms and hives. Avoid versions of these medications with a “D” in the name, however. These may keep you awake at night, advises Stukus. They include Allegra D and Zyrtec-D.
Prescription antihistamine nasal sprays such as Astepro, Astelin or the generic azelastine don’t cause drowsiness, says Stukus. You’ll have to deal with a bad taste, however. Meanwhile, nasal saline sprays such as Sinus Rinse are like “salt water for the nose” and help flush out allergens and mucus, says Stukus. They can be used several times a day and can also be made at home using a Neti pot, which is a ceramic or plastic container, or a squirt bottle.
Pollen counts are highest in the morning and peak between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m., notes Stukus. To avoid exposure to pollen during these hours, schedule your run or outdoor activities for later in the afternoon or evening when pollen counts are lower, he advises. Pollen is most active on dry days, and mold acts up when it’s damp and rainy, according to Stukus. After spending a lot of time outdoors, change and wash your clothes, he adds.
Keeping the windows closed at home and using air conditioning helps filter out pollen, notes Stukus. Avoid fans, which tend to stir up dust. In addition, clean your home air conditioner filter at least once a month. Using the air conditioner in the car can also significantly reduce pollen exposure.
Showering at night allows you to rinse your hair and body from the pollen you bring in from outside and avoid spreading them onto your pillow when you sleep, says Stukus. “If you’re collecting pollen when you’re out during the day, you want to get rid of that before you lay down to go to sleep at night,” says Stukus.
Known as allergy immunotherapy, allergy shots contain serums of multiple allergens to allow the body to become used to exposure to harmful substances such as dust or pollen. The shots can reduce allergy symptoms without taking medication that makes you drowsy. Be patient, however: “It’s not a quick fix, but over time and with regular injections a lot of people will feel better and be able to reduce the medications they need to use,” says Stukus.
An alternative to allergy shots are sublingual tablets, which dissolve under the tongue and provide immunotherapy to an allergen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved use of OralAir and Grastek, sublingual tablets that treat grass allergies, as well as the Ragwitek tablet for ragweed. “You can take them at home, they have much less side effects [than allergy shots] and they seem to work pretty well,” Stukus says.
People with higher levels of stress report more allergy symptoms, says Stukus. In fact, 64 percent of participants with higher stress levels in a recent Ohio State University study had more allergic episodes over two 14-day periods, reveals a Ohio State University study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “Getting a good night’s rest, exercising regularly and having a well-balanced lifestyle to reduce your stress may also help improve your allergies,” Stukus says.
Mobile apps such as IMS Health’s Allergy Alert (available for iOS and Android) use GPS functionality to track pollen counts near your location as well as others. Within Allergy Alert, swipe left or right to switch between locations. In addition, Allergy Alert lets you keep a diary of how you’re feeling from day to day.