(ARA) - For many, spring signifies the budding of flowers and longer days filled with warm sunshine. But for one in five people, spring also means allergies are in full swing.
Seasonal allergies, also called allergic rhinitis, cause cold-like signs and symptoms such as itchiness in the nose, roof of the mouth, throat, eyes and ears, along with watery eyes, runny nose, congestion and sneezing. But unlike a cold, allergies aren't caused by a virus; they are caused by an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens, such as mold, trees, pollen and pet dander.
Allergies, which affect an estimated 60 million people in the United States both young and old, can really take a toll on your daily routine, and they are a nuisance both in the daily life and professionally. Whether you're affected year-round or during a specific season, learning how to manage allergy symptoms can be vital to restoring your comfort and quality of life.
This condition can also be expensive to manage. From 2000 to 2005, the cost of treating allergic rhinitis nearly doubled from $6.1 billion to $11.2 billion, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
. More than half of that was spent on prescription and over-the-counter medications. Some experts recommend patients purchase store-brand, over-the-counter medicines as an effective means of managing both the condition and its associated costs.
"There are a number of very effective over-the-counter treatments to address the symptoms of seasonal allergies," says Dr. William Berger, professor of allergy and immunology at the University of California, Irvine. "In fact, to help patients save money, I would recommend many of the store-brand, non-sedating antihistamines sold at leading retailers and pharmacies, such as Cetirizine or Loratadine. These products are approved by the FDA, but cost significantly less than the brand names."
According to Berger, many allergy sufferers may find better relief of their symptoms by trying one of these newer, more effective treatments now available in the aisle, like Fexofenadine, which just switched from prescription to over-the-counter in 2011.
"Effective management with medicines, ideally before the allergy symptoms start, is key," he says.
You can find more information about the symptoms and treatments for allergic rhinitis at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (www.aaaai.org
), or the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (www.acaai.org