Health Watch -- Sneeze Relief

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

The downside of spring foliage is the pollen that comes with it.

While many of us enjoy the sights of spring that include flowers, new leaves on trees and fresh, green grass, for some people, these are harbingers of misery. It's a prime season for allergies, time for sniffling and sneezing.

Fortunately for allergy sufferers, many medications are available both by prescription and over the counter that help ease the suffering caused by spring allergies. Allergy specialists at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say knowing the proper use for these medications will help you make the right choice.

Non-drowsy antihistamine formulas that were once available only by prescription are now available over the counter. These drugs stop the body's response to allergens that leads to familiar allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. You'll usually start to feel relief about an hour after taking these drugs. Older formulas are still effective for fighting allergy symptoms, but they make you groggy so that it's difficult to go about your usual daily routine. Antihistamines won't help ease a stuffy head or congestion unless they contain a decongestant ingredient. They also won't help if your sneezing and runny nose are the result of a cold rather than allergies.

Dr. Bradley Marple, an ear, nose and throat specialist at UT Southwestern, says if you have chronic allergies or asthma, you should talk to your doctor regularly to make sure you're taking the best medication for relieving your symptoms.