Using a steroid nasal spray to quash allergy symptoms may work better than antihistamine pills. Researchers say that when used on an "as-needed'', rather than daily basis, the nasal spray fluticasone (Flonase) relieves allergy symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing and congestion more effectively than the antihistamine loratadine (Claritin).
Fluticasone is a corticosteroid preparation that fights allergy symptoms by reducing the inflammation that occurs in the nose when a person is exposed to an allergy trigger such as pollen or dust mites. Antihistamines block the effects of histamine, a compound released from immune system cells during allergic reactions. Antihistamines can cause significant sedation, for example. And the nasal sprays sometimes cause nasal dryness and nose bleeds, while in children there is the potential for the corticosteroids to hinder bone growth over time.
Although patients with seasonal allergies are advised to take their antihistamines or steroid nasal sprays daily, "most patients are probably not compliant,'' according to Dr. Robert M. Naclerio and his colleagues at the University of Chicago in Illinois. They note that little research attention has gone to how well these treatments work when patients take them "as needed'' - after their allergies begin to bother them.