Dear Dr. Zorba: My nose is clogged, my eyes itch, I sneeze and sneeze and sneeze. I love walking in the woods but when I do, I pay for it. Allergies are the pits. What’s the best treatment? And while we’re on the topic, what should I do about ticks and bug bites? – Stuffy
Dear Stuffy: You sound like one of the books I used to read to my children – “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”
I know exactly about those pesky allergies because I have them. My mom, God bless her, called me ‘Sneezy’ at this time of year. She would dole out Benadryl when I was a kid, which made me so groggy that I stopped talking and went to sleep. Hmmm … maybe that was her intention.
I found the old-fashioned pills simply wretched. Allergy treatment today is as easy as 1-2-3.
1. Antihistamines. Start with one of the non-sedating antihistamines available over the counter – Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra. Try one of them – doesn’t matter which one – and if it doesn’t work, double the dose.
If that fails then try one of the others. Each one is a bit different.
If you’re still stuffy, you may want to add the decongestant Sudafed, but be careful because it can keep you up at night.
Finally, if you’re suffering when you’re trying to sleep, add good old Benadryl and you’ll sleep like a baby.
2. Prescription steroid nasal sprays. They’re super effective at clearing the nose and safe to use as a stand-alone treatment. In fact, they’re my go-to drug for allergies. Some use them alone, while others use them as an add-on to antihistamines. Your choice.
3. Eye drops. Start with over-the-counter antihistamine drops. I like the generic equivalent of Nafcon A or Vasocon A – cheap and effective. If that fails, call your doctor for a stronger prescription drop, such as Patanol.
These three steps work 95 percent of the time. All come in generics, so always choose them. Save money and you’ll be happier. If they fail, consider expensive drugs such as Sigular or call your doctor to see if you need the old standby – allergy shots.
Now what about bug bites? Prevention is the name of the game: Wear long-sleeved shirt and long pants in the forest to keep them off. Spray yourself – or better yet, spray your clothes – with DEET or Permethrine. When you get home, shower up and look for ticks. They have to be on your skin for more than 24 hours to spread Lyme disease.
If you find a tick on your body after more than 24 hours call your doctor. The antibiotic doxycycline – one 200mg dose – given within 72 hours of a tick bite can stop Lyme in its tracks. If you’re in the woods a lot, ask your doctor for a prescription to have on hand.
Now the fun part, treating those itchy bites. Recent research from the British Medical Journal shows that medicated creams containing cortisone, Benadryl or benzocaine are worthless.
Here’s my treatment: If you itch all over, use Aveeno oatmeal bath. If you have a super-itchy spot, consider a cool, moist compress with Domboro solution, available from your pharmacy.