• Image: Woman blows nose outside
    Corbis stock
    Allergens like pollen and ragweed invade your nose and cause an immune response, which results in a runny, itchy nose along with sneezing.

    Spring is best served without itchy eyes and a stuffed up nose. The experts at Women's Health reveal why allergies make you feel so crummy and how to beat your symptoms so you don't miss out on a stretch of sunny skies.

  • Eyes: Itchy/red, watery, puffy swollen

    What's up with that?
    "Within seconds of histamines flooding your nose, they start getting into the blood supply and irritating surrounding tissue, making your eyes watery, itchy, and bloodshot," says Dawson.

    How can I Photoshop my eyes... in real life?
    Your oral antihistamines and decongestant will often take care of the problem. But if your eyes are irritating you more than a Yorkie languishing in a Louis Vuitton carrier, look for eyedrops with both an antihistamine and decongestant. Visine-A is a combo of both, so it'll halt the production of histamines and vasoconstrict irritated blood vessels, says Brown. Translation? It gets rid of the itchy, watery symptoms while also taking care of those red eyes.

    Do I need to see a doc?
    "If the symptoms don't go away in three days, talk to your doctor. It may be something worse or you may have to deal with it in another matter," says Arya.

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  • Nose: Runny, itching, sneezy

    What's up with that?
    Just like Gossip Girl's Blair Waldorf near Bergdorf Goodman, allergens like pollen and ragweed first invade your nose, which protects itself with an outpouring of inflammatory chemicals called histamines. This immune response, which happens within seconds to a minute of exposure, causes a runny, itchy nose along with sneezing, says Douglas Dawson, M.D., a fellow of the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy.

    What will help turn off the faucet on my face?
    Antihistamines will block receptors, preventing histamines from being released into your nasal passages and stirring up pesky symptoms, says Bethanne Brown, Pharm.D., assistant professor at the Wrinkle College of Pharmacy at the University of Cincinnati. Although all antihistamines act in the same way, not all are created equal; newer-generation ingredients are better if you have a full day ahead of you. In a 2008 study published in Allergy and Asthma Proceedings, researchers found that loratadine and cetirizine, the active ingredients in Claritin and Zyrtec, respectively, won't make you drowsy, especially compared with diphenhydramine, the main ingredient in the old-school standby, Benedryl. (In fact, in another study, published in the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine in 2000, researchers concluded that participants on diphenhydramine drove more poorly than participants who were legally drunk.)

    Although it's best to take an antihistamine before you're exposed to the allergen, they'll usually kick in within 30 to 60 minutes. Brown recommends trying Claritin 12-Hour RediTabs, since dissolving tablets shave off 15 to 30 minutes your wait time.

    Do I need to see a doc?
    If your symptoms still persist after a week of using an antihistamine, your doc can give you a prescription for Allegra, Clarinex, or Xyzal. But don't mistake prescription antihistamines as being faster acting or stronger than over-the-counter drugs, says David Shulan, M.D., partner of the Certified Allergy & Asthma Consultants in Albany, New York. All antihistamines work the same; it's just that each contains different active ingredients, and some interact better with individual body chemistry, says Shulan.

    (If your runny nose is producing at thick yellow or green discharge and you also have a fever and muscle aches, it's likely not allergies.)

    Supercharge your immune system with these 5 all-natural tricks.

  • Throat: Itchy

    What's up with that?
    "Some of the allergens that trigger histamine reactions will drain right into your throat and cause the same itchy reaction there," says Dawson.

    What can I take for some relief?
    Claritin, the same antihistamines that barricade histamine-producing receptors in your nose, "can be very helpful for an itchy throat," says Shulan.

    Do I need to see a doc?
    If your symptoms start with a sore throat, followed by stuffiness and thick nasal discharge, visit your doc to rule out a respiratory infection.

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  • Head: Sinus headache

    Getty Images stock
    Pain relievers like Tylenol or ibuprofen can help curb sinus pain, but so can saline nasal irrigation.

    What's up with that?
    "It isn't unusual for your nasal membranes to get so swollen that the outflow tracts to your sinuses become clogged," says Dawson, and anything that keeps sinuses from ventilating will create a difference in pressure and cause pain.

    What can I take to curb the sinus pain?
    The decongestants you're using will knock out congestion and sinus pain as a result, and even a pain reliever like Tylenol or ibuprofen can help.

    But if the pressure is making you feel as out of it as Snooki at a Jeopardy tryout, you may find major relief with SinuCleanse, a saline nasal irrigation. Although it sounds like a farming technique, it's a natural solution made of salt and water. Just pour the solution into a neti pot, a special nasal cup shaped like a genie lantern. Lean over the sink and turn your head slightly to one side; place the long spout into your upper nostril and tip the cup so the solution pours into your upper nostril. Surprise—the solution will drain out of the lower nostril. Blow your nose lightly, and switch sides.

    Originally designed to help chronic sinus sufferers, saline irrigation has also been found to improve sinus symptoms in allergy sufferers. Although researchers don't know for sure how it works, one study published by the American College of Chest Physicians suggests that saline irrigation reduces the inflammatory mediators, such as histamines, in nasal secretions.

    Do I need to see a doc?
    If your sinus pain is excruciatingly bad, schedule an appointment right away, says Shulan. If it's a sinus infection, you'll need antibiotics to treat it.
    If you like to sweat through a cold or allergy problems, here are 9 ways to avoid germs at the gym.


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