fall asthma tips

Fall is upon us! If you’re literally itching to go out and enjoy the crisp air and do some fun fall activities, below are a few tips to keep your allergies and asthma in check. Fall and winter tend to be the worst for asthmatics, so it’s important to have a plan. Make sure you jump on it right away, before you start feeling miserable!

Every year, more medications become available over-the-counter. This makes it easier for people to get many types of safe and helpful medications. The downside is, this availability can put pressure on patients to know what to take and when. An allergist is the best person to give you personalized advice, but it’s still important to learn the basics.

Nose sprays tend to be a good first option. They are safe, effective, and don’t have any serious side effects. OTC sprays like Nasacort, Flonase, and Rhinocort relieve symptoms of both nose AND eyes. There are also a few prescription nose sprays.

The only real side effects are that they may not taste good, and steroids may cause minor nasal irritation. There isn’t much you can do about the taste, but the irritation can be avoided with proper technique. Make sure you keep the nozzle straight. Aiming it in towards the middle of your nose (the septum) is the most common cause of nasal irritation.

Steroids may sound scary, but nasal steroids are not the same as systemic ones (aka, prescription pills like Prednisone). They are not addicting. Afrin is the main OTC spray that can be addictive, and it’s not helpful for long-term allergy treatment.

Antihistamines (pills) are also effective for treating allergies. Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec are a great first options. All come in adult pills, pediatric chewable tablets, and liquid doses. Both are one-a-day medications. Allegra and Claritin have no side effects (aka, non-drowsy). Some people may get drowsy with Zyrtec, but not everyone and this side effect may fade over time.

Most stores have generic equivalents for these medications and the generic medications work just as well as the name brand…and are much cheaper.

Allegra = fexofenadine, OTC

Zyrtec = cetirizine, OTC

Claritin = loratidine, OTC

Clarinex = desolartidine, Rx only!

Eye drops can also be helpful. There are a variety of OTC options which are not systemic, and can be used once or twice daily. If you wear contact lenses, you’ll need to remove them for the drops to work, and should wait 10-15 minutes before putting contacts back in.

Some OTC drops have antihistamines, others don’t. Antihistamine drops are a good first choice if you know you have seasonal allergies. There you can ask your doctor about prescription eye drops such as Pazeo, Pataday, and Patanol.

As always, check with your doctor especially, if you’ve been taking a medication and your allergy symptoms are getting worse (or never got better). You may need additional medications to control your symptoms.

Managing your symptoms can help you get out to enjoy the bounty of Fall – a carpet of beautiful fall leaves, the scent of wood burning fireplaces and the crisp bite of a freshly picked apple! Don’t let asthma make you miss a moment!

Julia Tarnovsky
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