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Pollen panic? Best allergy treatment is a drugstore brand

Consumer Reports News: March 28, 2013 02:38 PM

We're barely a week into Spring and already pollen counts in some parts of the U.S. are on the rise, causing sheer misery in the form of runny noses, itchy, watery eyes, and sneezing for nearly 60 million seasonal allergy sufferers. If you're one of them, you know that getting relief, short of locking yourself way for the next three months, can be difficult. But it's not impossible.

Our Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs report on antihistamines recommends lower-cost generic loratadine, the active ingredient in the nonprescription drug Claritin for around $13 per month. If loradatine doesn't work, consider generic cetirizine (Zyrtec) or generic fexofenadine (Allegra). All are available without a prescription and cost less then their brand-name counterparts. And while our analysis shows they aren't necessarily more effective than older antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadry Allergy and generic), they are less likely to cause drowsiness.

But before you hit the drugstore, it's a good idea to see your doctor to make sure you're suffering from allergies since sinusitis, the common cold, and bronchitis can cause symptoms typical of allergies.

Read " Is it an allergy or a sinus infection?" for tips on coping with allergy symptoms.

If you're sure it's allergies, steer clear of allergens that can exacerbate your symptoms, such as pollen, pet hair, and dust. Also, check the pollen count before going outdoors, and when you return home, take a shower to wash the pollen off your skin, and wash your clothes. You might even stay indoors between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen levels are typically highest. And if you've gotten into the habit of washing your hands to prevent colds and the flu, keep it up--it can help lessen allergy symptoms, too.

Finally, don't discount natural remedies. In our survey of allergy sufferers, while 72 percent were helped a lot by prescription drugs and 52 percent by OTC medications, a significant number were helped by chiropractic (41 percent) and deep-breathing exercises (32 percent).

For more on how to get relief from your seasonal allergies and important information on side effects, read our free report on antihistamines.

Ginger Skinner

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