Many people reach for over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve their daily or seasonal allergy and sinus symptoms. However, if you find you are not achieving symptom relief or your symptoms seem to escalate, you need to reconsider the medications you are using.
You Use Medications Incorrectly
You may find your medication does not work for the full four to six hours and your symptoms come back with greater intensity. If your allergy medication is supposed to be used as needed for symptoms, but you have been taking the medication all day for multiple days, an increase in symptoms is likely caused by a rebound effect. Switch to a medication that is appropriate for daily use. If you are unsure which OTC medications are appropriate for daily use, check the dosing information. The directions will state to use the medication once per day throughout your allergy season.
Daily OTC medications must be taken as directed to be effective. Ideally, you should take them before you start experiencing symptoms if you have seasonal allergies. Although you may feel relief an hour or two after taking the medicine, their long-term effectiveness is dependent on keeping a steady stream of medication in your system. Do not overlook allergy nasal sprays, especially if you have tried several types of long-term antihistamines without results. You may find your allergies respond better when your medication is absorbed through your nasal passages.
You Don't Have Sinus Congestion
Most decongestants are designed to thin sinus congestion, which helps it drain from your sinus passages. Not every case of a stuffy nose is due to sinus congestion. Sometimes the underlying problem is inflammation and swelling of your nasal passages, which prevents any sinus congestion from draining. Swelling is especially common when you have allergies, because environmental allergens irritate your nasal passages.
Some OTC nasal sprays, such as nasal steroids, are more effective for alleviating swelling of nasal passages and are meant for long-term use. Saline sprays can be helpful when you have a stuffy nose without sinus congestion. By keeping your nasal passages moist, they are less likely to swell. Furthermore, the added moisture can help prevent nosebleeds from cracked, dry nasal passages.
Your Antihistamine Causes More Problems
Having a combination of allergy and sinus problems can make it difficult to treat both with OTC medications. Antihistamines dry out your mucous membranes, which is counterproductive when you have sinus congestion. In turn, your inability to alleviate sinus congestion can make allergies worse, because small particles of allergens may be stuck in your nasal passages.
You will need to discuss a different treatment approach with your doctor to find a way of allowing your sinuses to drain while alleviating allergy symptoms. In addition to taking prescribed medicines, you will need to focus on drinking more caffeine-free fluids to compensate for the drying effect of your medications and to encourage draining of your sinuses.
You Don't Know Your Allergens
Many people are unaware any changes in the frequency, severity or ability to control their allergies could mean they have developed new allergies. New allergies can occur at any time during your life. Having an allergist perform allergy tests can help you determine what you are allergic to and find a better treatment plan when OTC medications are not helping.
You may find changes in your nasal allergy symptoms are triggered by a change in your household environment, the foods you eat or you have become hypersensitive to familiar animals or pollen. If you find out the changes are due to avoidable allergens, you can easily decrease the amount of medicine you take. Otherwise, stronger medications or immunotherapy might be a better option.
Having both allergy and sinus problems are a common occurrence and many people rely on OTC medications for relief. With many medications available, it is easy to use medications incorrectly or not recognize when your symptoms require more than OTC medications.