Your Philly Allergy Survival Guide

We asked Philadelphia's top allergy doctors for some free advice on surviving the season

Read nasal spray labels — and listen to them.
Using some over-the-counter sprays like Afrin past the three-day recommended time period may cause nasal linings to swell, even though the original allergy response has passed. This rebound congestion leaves patients worse off than when they started. “They’re designed for short-term use for a head cold, not daily use,” says Albert Rohr, MD, of Bryn Mawr Hospital. “You will only get stuffier and stuffier as you use them past three days.” For long-term treatment, step up to prescriptions designed for daily use, like nasal steroids Rhinocort or Flonase.

[sidebar]Make sure your doctor is ruling out other possible causes.
Asthma and heartburn are all possible contributors to chest discomfort, says Eric Glasofer, MD, of Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. A smart doctor will do everything from ordering chest x-rays to checking pulmonary function. “I tend to be conservative; I really want to make sure things are safe,” he says.

Skip the Claritin if you’re worried about falling asleep on the job.
Dr. Rohr finds it more sedating than Allegra or Zyrtec. And if you’re looking for an over-the-counter heavy hitter, opt for Zyrtec. Its potent active ingredient is a stronger solution than Allegra.

Ask your doc about leukotriene-blocking dailies, like Singulair.
These prescriptions work against both indoor and outdoor allergies. “I’ve had some patients say that Singulair changed their life,” says John Cohn, MD, of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

If you’re really suffering, talk to your doctor about allergy shots.
“Medications may not always work long enough or be strong enough,” says Paresha Shah, MD, of Kennedy Memorial Hospitals/University Medical Center. She cautions, though, that a thorough skin test and history should be done before any patient goes under the needle.