Treatment of allergic rhinitis (allergies) begins with a diagnosis of allergies. A history and physical examination is the first step. Your physician will ask about the severity and duration of your symptoms as well as what triggers them (e.g., pollen, pet dander). You may also be given an allergy test to identify the specific allergens causing your symptoms. Due to the prevalence of sleep problems among allergic rhinitis patients, questions about sleep and daytime sleepiness should also be a part of a medical examination for allergic rhinitis.
There are several over-the-counter medications that may relieve symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including antihistamines, and decongestants. These medications may cause drowsiness and daytime sleepiness. Talk to your physician about finding the best medication to treat your symptoms and discuss any concerns you may have that use of a medication might interfere with your alertness when driving, at work, or completing your responsibilities or activities.
Research shows that intranasal corticosteroids reduce congestion, improve sleep, and reduce daytime fatigue in allergic rhinitis patients. Montelukast is also approved for the treatment of allergic rhinitis and may significantly improve both daytime and nighttime symptoms, according to at least one study. Montelukast and corticosteroids are available by prescription. Allergy shots may be prescribed for severe symptoms or those that do not respond to other treatments.
Treatment for allergic rhinitis should also focus on improving sleep, which may improve health, quality of life, and general well-being.
Reviewed by David G. Davila, MD (December 2009).