Help for seasonal allergies (dry cough, itchy throat)?
August 31, 2006 9:10 AM   Subscribe

I have seasonal allergies and have recently been plagued by an itchy throat and dry cough. I usually notice symptoms when there is an abrupt temperature drop overnight, causing me to wake up coughing. Which over-the-counter medicines or home remedies generally work the best for this problem? Claritin doesn't seem to do anything.
posted by zembla3 to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Everyone I've talked to with severe allergies has said that they had to try several medicines before finding one that works. For some it's Claritin, for others it's Benadryl, and for one of my friends it's a fairly expensive anti-depressant whose name I've forgotten.
posted by Tuwa at 9:28 AM on August 31, 2006

I've had a lot of allergy problems this year, rather different to previous years.

The allergies are probably not brought on by the temperture drop itself, but the fact that a new air mass has arrived bringing allergens from elsewhere. Typically you are affected not so much by your local pollen as what is blowing in on the wind. What is north of you? Because that's probably where the cold air is coming from.

I've had a really hard time with antihistamines. They seem to come in three varieties:

1. Traditional: make you sleepy/depressed/grumpy
2. Non-drowsy: contain decongestants which make you feel wired and grumpy simultaneously
3. New school (eg Aerius) which make you somewhat less drowsy/ornery and do not have a decongestant

Even the new school antihistamines are extremely hard for me to take, so I use them solely to manage really acute attacks. I take them at about 7-8pm and not on consecutive days. This way the antihistamine levels ramp up during the evening, are at their highest at night when I'm trying to sleep, and ramp down again in the morning when I don't want to feel like a bear.

I've noticed that my symptoms can be much worse when I'm *inside*. I think this is because being vertical and active drains your sinuses more easily, and because if you're engaged in an interesting activity you don't notice the problems as much. Anyway, it's hard to believe, but I've spent several days this year driving a tractor around a field full of ragweed (an allergen for me), completely clear, only to get in the car and drive back to an air-conditioned house and find the symptoms hit me as soon as I step in the door.

Things that have helped me:
Not much. Driving in an air-conditioned car for an hour can relieve an acute attack.

(When I say acute, I mean I can't see any more because my eyes have almost swollen shut).

Things that definitely increase the severity of an attack:
Air pollution. In fact I think this is probably the single biggest catalyst for a severe attack.
posted by unSane at 9:31 AM on August 31, 2006

Driving in an air-conditioned car for an hour can relieve an acute attack.

(When I say acute, I mean I can't see any more because my eyes have almost swollen shut).

Is this safe though?
posted by j-urb at 9:45 AM on August 31, 2006

Is this safe though?
No, not at all.
posted by unSane at 9:46 AM on August 31, 2006

I have the exact same problem and symptoms that you describe.

For me the two remedies that work are:
1) good old clairitin. I usually buy the generic equivalent, the 24-hour pill. Its expensive, but during a day when I have a lot of work to finish and dont want to be bothered by my symptoms, it works pretty well and relibably.

2) Flo-nase. I havent tried this yet, but my sister (who also has the same symptoms you describe) swears by it. I'm planning on trying it soon. She says if you have flo-nase you wont need claritin. If thats true, it might be cheaper to buy flo-nase.
posted by jak68 at 9:55 AM on August 31, 2006

Saline nose spray. Not that you won't need some kind of medicinal intervention as well, but I find that using saline nose spray a couple of times a day during really bad times, and right before bed, keep my symptoms a lot more low-key than they would otherwise be.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:22 AM on August 31, 2006

Claratin didn't work for me. Flonase got rid of the nonstop stuffed-up nose (I assumed it was just a fact of life for my first 25 years on this planet - the last five have introduced me to a world of smell - and, unfortuntely, odor - since I've started taking Flonase).

I tried a number of allergy pills. Someone gave me some Aerius (not sure if it's available outside of Canada) and it's been a lifesaver.

One thing that I think I was told a long time ago by my doctor when first given Claratin was that it takes time to build up in your body before it really starts to work. Perhaps someone can correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by ChuckLeChuck at 10:23 AM on August 31, 2006

No, Claritin should work right away. It's the nasal steroids like Flonase that take a while. BTW Flonase is now generic (fluticasone).

I was reading this thread to see if anything non-pharmacologic had worked well for people. Sadly, I guess not. I will say that Flonase works great for me.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:39 AM on August 31, 2006

Thanks Slarty, that makes sense. (Loved your work on the Fjords, by the way.)

Not necessarily an option for you zembla3 but moving to the downtown core of a very large city really helps with the seasonal allergies.
posted by ChuckLeChuck at 10:44 AM on August 31, 2006

Chlor Trimeton in 4 hour doses. Works well, doesn't zonk you out too bad.
posted by yogurtisgenocide at 11:13 AM on August 31, 2006

If it's based on a seasonal shift, it may simply be a reaction to the drop in humidity; I'm in NYC and this time of year I have to stop sleeping with the windows open because I wake up with dried-out eyes, itchy scalp, runny nose, and other allergiy symptoms. I also start breaking out in areas around my mouth and nose that need more moisture.

Have you considered a humidifier?
posted by hermitosis at 11:18 AM on August 31, 2006

I would recommend both a humidifier (because cold air can often be drier) and sinus irrigation

yea, yea I know... I thought the whole neti pot deal was a bunch of new age hippie dreck too. that was before I tried it. it's really helped with both sinus and seasonal allergy woes and the bonus is that it's affordable and non-drug-dependent.

flonase can work extremely well. however some people can build up a resistance to both it (synthetic corticosteroid) and the various flavours of antihistamines, meaning they'll work less and less well over extended use. I tend to only use loratadine (claritin) about once a week or so during the height of my seasonal allergy attacks, to stave off the worst symptoms. I find it works much better this way, coupled with sinus irrigation and ample humidity.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:28 AM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

oh and btw for ChuckLeChuck: fyi Aerius is the same drug (desloratadine) as is marketed in the U.S. under the trade name "Clarinex"

it can be extremely beneficial to figure out drug interaction / similarities / side effects / etc. if you are able to find the generic / medical drug names to reference in searches. note that 'brand / trade / marketing' name |= actual drug name.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:37 AM on August 31, 2006

I'd try another anti-histamine, sometimes I swear Claritin doesn't work, but Allegra does it for me.
posted by gramcracker at 1:15 PM on August 31, 2006

I'm glad I'm not the only one having unusual allergy reactions this year. I've had a weird cough for a month and a half, and taking a combination of sudafed, allegra and flonase has helped get me down to coughing, say, twice a day instead of constantly.
posted by echo0720 at 9:59 AM on September 1, 2006

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