If you have seasonal allergies you will likely try anything – or everything – to stop the relentless symptoms. They can range from mild irritation of the throat or eyes to something much more serious, like bronchospasm (like asthma) or even anaphylaxis (unlikely but possible). The underlying cause of all symptoms is pollen – and dust – in the air. Some years, the levels are so high that people report they can write their initials in it on the hood of their car.

Some of the dusty particles in the air are allergens – chemicals that trigger the release of histamine from the mast cells located throughout the body. The allergens can be composed of almost anything, though many are proteins. Allergies to foreign protein are common. Coming in contact with large amounts of it over long periods of time will certainly make you feel like an itchy, dripping sneeze machine.

The popular solution to these allergy symptoms comes at us from the ever-present pharmaceutical companies; as antihistamines – alone, or in combination with decongestants. Using a non-prescription drug seems like a quick and easy solution. But, is it safe?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning titled, “Allergy Meds Could Affect Your Driving”. Most antihistamine will make you drowsy and they contain warnings on their labels about it. But, who reads the warning labels – especially on a product advertised on television, in magazines, and right on the shelves of the pharmacy?

A basic assumption is that they MUST BE SAFE because they’re sold without a doctor’s prescription. Read and heed the warnings about slow reaction time, drowsiness, and sleepiness. Some non-prescription sleep aids are actually antihistamines. That should be a clue as to how they can affect us.

Slow reaction times can be a hazard to the driver – and to others around him/her. Be just a little too slow when applying the brakes and BAM – something gets broken or someone gets hurt.

There are safer ways to control the effects of pollen and dust. One successful approach is to clean the sinus areas, removing the offending allergens. You may have heard about the Neti Pot, a simple pot with a spout that you fill with water and pour through the nostrils to cleanse the sinus areas. It works, but they can be a nuisance – and messy. One company that sells the Neti Pot also sells the Sinus Rinse – a squeeze bottle you use to gently force a water/salt mixture into the sinus cavities. This is easier and more efficient. I tell my customers to clean their sinuses at least daily – upon waking. If symptoms are severe, use the device more often – before bed is an excellent time.

Here’s a final note about combinations of antihistamines and decongestants. REBOUND CONGESTION. The very drug you take to open the nasal passages can have just the opposite effect – causing the sinuses to plug up, often worse than before. The best way to stop rebound is to never take decongestant drugs in any form – oral doses or nasal sprays.


  • Don’t use antihistamines if you will be driving.
  • Clean your sinuses one or more times each day.
  • Never use decongestants.