Allergies: Don't Sneeze at Allergy Relief (cont.)

If you have any other health conditions, check with your doctor first to determine which OTC medicine to take. For example, people with uncontrolled high blood pressure or serious heart disease shouldn't take decongestants unless directed by a doctor.

Immunotherapy, commonly known as allergy shots, is also an option for treating allergic rhinitis. Candidates for immunotherapy might include those who don't respond to either OTC or prescription medications, or who suffer from frequent complications of allergic rhinitis.

According to NIAID, about 80 percent of people with hay fever will experience a significant reduction in their symptoms and their need for medication within a year of starting allergy shots.

"Discuss the option of immunotherapy with your doctor thoroughly because immunotherapy is not for everybody, and there is a significant time commitment involved," Chowdhury says.

The process involves receiving injections of small amounts of allergens that are considered to be responsible for your symptoms. The injections are given over at least three to five years. The doses are gradually increased so that the body builds up immunity to the allergen, with discontinuation being based on minimal symptoms over two consecutive seasons of exposure.

Chowdhury points out that because allergy shots have been around since the early 1900s, they have been grandfathered in. "They have not been tested rigorously in accordance with current FDA standards."

Source: Adapted from an article by Michelle Meadows in the FDA Consumer Magazine.

Last Editorial Review: 3/22/2004