Decongestant nasal sprays are another OTC option, but don't use them for longer than three days. Overuse can create a rebound effect of narrowing and constricting the blood vessels of your nose.
5. Close your windows, and turn on the air conditioning. Sure, with the recession, keeping the A/C off and just opening your windows might be a tempting move for cost-conscious people. But if you're allergic to outdoor allergens, it's best to keep the windows shut for the sake of your health. "If you know that the live oaks are blooming and you're sitting there all night long breathing in the live oak pollen, you're just worsening the problem," Melker says. "You're letting the fundamental [allergic] reaction occur, and then you're just trying to mask the symptoms" with medications.
6. If things get bad, try allergy shots, also known as allergy immunotherapy. There is no reason anyone should have to suffer from allergies in silence, experts say. "Allergy shots can help a lot of the symptoms, especially when people have tried all the other stuff and are still having problems," Fisher says. These shots involve being regularly injected with a small amount of the substance you're allergic to. The idea is to stimulate your immune system and help your body become desensitized to the allergens, according to the Mayo Clinic. A Cochrane Collaboration review updated in 2003 found that allergy shots help to improve symptoms of asthma, reduce the need for medications, and lessen the risk of severe asthma attacks when patients are exposed to allergens in the future.
Eventually, the hope is that you'll build up a tolerance and your allergic reactions won't be so severe. But keep in mind that allergy shots require a time commitment—typically several years of weekly to monthly shots to completely finish the entire course of treatment. And because patients are injected with substances that they're allergic to, there is a risk of allergic reactions after the injections. For this reason, doctors typically require patients to remain in their offices for a few minutes after each session of immunotherapy.
Another option is immunotherapy delivered orally via drops or tablets, which was found in a 2008 study to be effective in kids with allergic asthma. A review of earlier evidence, published in 2003 by the Cochrane Collaboration, found that this type of immunotherapy, delivered under the tongue, helps to relieve allergic rhinitis. It's unclear, however, whether it's as effective as allergy shots. The availability of this type of therapy is limited because it has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and research is ongoing.