Let Claritin Season Commence!

And here’s Daisy, initiating the annual “cut-grass-and-pollen dance,” signaling the joyous time of year when I ingest allergy medicine or suffer sinus pressure roughly equivalent to the pressures found at imminently exploding supervolcanoes. It’s a special time of year, it is.

59 thoughts on “Let Claritin Season Commence!

  1. I’ve switched to (generic) Zyrtec this year, and so far it seems to be doing a better job. Hoping this keeps up!

  2. Ah yes, fun times. If it would ever STOP RAINING here I’d have to worry about this too. If you’ve not, try Zyrtec and Allegra. When they all came out I got samples of each and the worked differently. A friend reacted differently to them than I, so it’s worth trying each to see if there’s something better than Claritin for you.

  3. I love my Zyrtec. BTW, be aware that drugs work differently on different folks. Claritin and Allegra never did much for me, while my close cousin finds Allegra to be totally awesome, with Zyrtec failing on him. (Note: with regular antihistimines you have to take them every day, and have the body build-up–taking them intermittently didn’t do much for me. I get my Zyrtec as a generic from Costco–Allertec–and it’s only 20 bucks for 360 capsules. My allergist gave me that tip.)

    Speaking of my allergist, I’ve been doing the allergy shots since last July, and two weeks back went to a friend’s house. They had two dogs and a cat, and I was there for five hours. Previously, I’d left feeling like I had a cold. This time, well into my maintenance shots, I left feeling pretty much like I did when I showed up. (AKA ABLE TO BREATHE! No sniffles, no red eyes, no tight chest.) It’s so awesome. I’m quite pleased.

    If you can swing it, I’d recommend the shots. (The needles are tiny–I barely feel them–and my overall quality of life is so much better.)

  4. A little Doctorly advice..

    If Claritin is working for you…then by all means continue to use it. However, Claritin (Loratidine) is the weakest anti-histamine ever created by humans hands. It became popular as the first 24-hour non-sedating antihistamine which was available. Some physicians would also call it Non-Working.

    Over the Counter ZYRTEC (generic Cetirizine) 10mg is, literally, THOUSANDS of times more potent at the histamine (H1) receptor, and is sedating in about 15% of people. My favorite Anti-histamine, Allegra, just became available OTC. It is HUNDREDS of times more potent than Claritin and is also completely non-sedating.

    As someone else mentioned, the D portion of these meds (decongestant) can often be the more important half of the drug regimen…this represents plain Pseudoephedrine, which works mightily as a decongestant.

    – Dr Mike

  5. On allergy shots: Oh, and the allergist makes your serum of everything you’re allergic to respiratorially speaking. It’s not like they give you just a cat or dog serum–they attack everything because allergies are cumulative. So I have two shots–one for dust/dust mites, and the other for furs, sage, and the six grasses.

    I should also mention that an ethical and competent allergist will likely refuse to start shot treatment right in the height of spring. Mine refused to start me until July. People come to him assuming that the shots ameliorate symptoms, when actually the serum is to habituate your body–so they actually ADD to your allergies. They want you to have allergies under control BEFORE you start: ie, sheets and pillowcases against dustmites, air filters set up in house, use a neti pot, regular vacuuming/dusting by either non-allergic fam (or in our case, we have cleaning people every two weeks), minimization of general allergies all around.

    You go every week for about six to nine months. You start at something like 0.1 parts of 100,000, and move up to .5 of that number. Then they move the decimal point up. Eventually you reach a maintenance dose, and they drop you to two weeks, three weeks, then monthly (which is where I am). When you get the shots, you sit around for half an hour minimum, and they’ll check you for any reactions. I’ve had one reaction which was problematic (and if it had been worse, they might have recommended discontinuing shots) where the attending doc (not my regular) decided I should go to the ER when my blood pressure dropped. (I started off with an itchy throat and developed a tiny wheeze, and then they checked my BP, and tried giving me oral Benadryl and then an epipen. My allergist thinks the new guy might have over-reacted, but of course, said better safe than sorry. I haven’t had any problems since.) Most of the time I get a small welt at the shot location and I use ice packs to keep it from getting uncomfy.

    Things I’m glad about: The shots, if they continue to work, will alleviate my fear of flying with cats/dogs –something of a small issue in the past because omg, airplane air is cycled around the cabin that even sitting on the opposite side of the plane, you can end up feeling like you have breathing issues. (And in the air, you can’t get away from the allergen.) I can also visit friends with pets without having to resort to keeping my face in a cup of hot tea the entire visit.

    I can breathe better on a regular basis. Even forgetting my daily antihistimine doesn’t leave me with itchy eyes or runny nose any more. I hardly ever have to resort to my inhaler. Oh, and I didn’t come down with the killer bronchitis I generally get every winter. My peak flow is up!

    Allergy shots are not for everyone–but they can prove effective for many people.

  6. I am HAPPY that Allegra finally became OTC. My allergies have largely subsided, but there were episodes where nothing touched the sneezing, stuffy nose, and itchy eyes but Allegra. I conserved the last 3 pills of my final prescription for nearly a year in case of a bad attack; meanwhile, I kept a Brillo pad handy for the eyes.

  7. Claritin-D affected my short term memory for weeks. I was so scatter-brained, I couldn’t even focus on the fact that I had a problem. It wasn’t until having the obligatory “what hayfever drugs do you take?” conversation at a dinner party that someone commented on this side-effect. I immediately stopped the Claritin and went back to Zyrtec. The problem cleared up immediately. BTW how many of you are aware that the main side-effect of so-called non-sedating anti-histamines is “drowsiness”?

    That said, I am pumped to the gills with Beconase, Zyrtec and some anti-irritant for the scratchy red orbs I call my eyes and I’m pretty sure that either a) all the moisture in my face is being sucked into my nose, or b) I have a worm-hole in my sinuses connected to a black hole the snot-universe.

    I tried the allergy shot regime. The first time, I nearly passed out ( I have no needle fear ), so the allergist said he’d have to reduce the dosage by an order of magnitude next time. With that reduced dose, I spent the day feeling like I had an ant colony inside me. I’ve not repeated this experiment. One of my GPs said the risk of anaphylactic* shock was too great.

    *Google’s spellcheck recommends “intergalactic”. I believe it.

  8. I was congratulating myself on being immune… until I tried to sing, and croaked and squeaked instead. Zyrtec for me as well.

  9. *throws confetti* We have snow on the ground here, but we’ve already had some early signs of the Arrival of Pollen. I second what everyone says about Zyrtec, above. What I recommend is that anyone with allergies who is not getting total relief from Claritin should check in with their doctor for an allergy tune-up. Even benedryl is stronger than Clarity (although you have to take it every six hours.) You can try Zyrtec, Allegra, steroid nasal sprays, eye drops, inhalers, and various combinations of products. At this point in history, no one should have to suffer through allergy season. I am finally seeing an allergist for testing next month and I am interested in the shots, although I probably wouldn’t start them for a while for a number of reasons.

  10. I live on Sudafed and Aspirin during the worst seasons. Which for my allergies are 12 months a year.
    Dr. refused to put me on allergy shots, because I have too many. Short list: what I am not allergic to, oak trees, rabbit weed and grass. Not counting the food allergies.
    So, the allergy sufferers club is (I think) the largest in the world. Nice to meet some other club members.

  11. I like Avamys , myself… It’s one of those “evil steroids,” but I haven’t yet grown any of the wrong sorts of appendages, and it seems more potent than Allegra or Reactine. (I have been very happy that the latter substances have been OTC in my country for some years now!)

    The pollen levels definitely lurch around in my territory (Toronto), so it has been bad, is OK, but will doubtless be bad again soon.

    Good luck!

  12. *fascinated by this thread, as i have not had to take allergy medicine on a regular basis in 20 years — and was put back on it (and Claritin, no less) and given other meds to deal with infection only yesterday*

  13. I never used to have allergies, but starting 2 years ago, I’ve needed Claritin regularly during the spring season. It’s annoying and I hope that someday the allergies will decide they want nothing to do with me, again.

    Hope your sinuses don’t bother you too much, sinus infections are nasty, nasty things.

  14. Claritin? Is that all you got? PFFFT! It’s been Sudafed (the kind ya need to SIGN for) and Benadryl season around here for a while. Claritin… Weak sauce. ;-) I hope you make it through allergy season with out causing any collateral damage in the neighborhood. Salud!

  15. Suffered terribly with allergies until being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 20 years ago. After going through a lengthy period of finding out what medications did NOT keep it in remission, I finally did okay with Imuran, an immunosuppresant which was apparently normally used for organ transplant recipients (to avoid rejection of the organ). None of this was any fun, of course, but the one positive is that, in knocking down my immune system, the Imuran has done a pretty nifty job since then of tempering my allergies to much more tolerable levels. Kind of an extreme way to accomplish that, I suppose, but I’ll take the benefit.

  16. @ Dr. Mike:
    Actually Seldane was the first non-drowsy antihistamine on the market, but when mixed with some antibiotics–such as ketoconazole or erythromycin–Seldane sometimes had the very nasty side effect of causing arrhythmia. Even though Claritin was barely more effective than a placebo at the standard 10mg dose, the whole “nonsedating” thing was to good to pass up. In studies, most people showed no response to Claritin (Loratidine) until they had taken several times the 10mg dose, at which point drowsiness kicked in. So the more effective dose couldn’t be marketed as non-drowsy and would have required labeling stating that fact.

    For more enlighting info on this sad state of affairs, go to the New York Times and read “The Claritin Effect; Prescription for Profit” by Stephen S. Hall, published on March 11, 2001.

    While the article may be 10 years old, it does give a bit of insight in to how drugs get approved and marketed. Having tried every form of Claritin and Clarinex to have been put on the shelves I long ago started refering to them all as the Claritin Scam.

  17. My first thought was ‘lucky John’… not to belittle your suffering, but allergy season started here is SC back in January.

  18. We had snow on the ground here in Chicago this morning. SNOW. Meanwhile, people in Georgia are complaining about the heat. Boo-freaking-hoo.

  19. I actually like generic loratadine because of the weakness. I have problems with nose dryness with many meds and loratadine is very scaleable with the pollen count, when things are bad I can crank it up to 3 times a day, but outside of those times I can cut back to 1 or 2 times. Of course I’m one of those that built up a resistance to Benadryl decades ago so it’s more useful as a sleeping pill to me now.

  20. @Digital Atheist: I was under the impression that it was Seldane’s hepatotoxic effects when combined with alcohol that got it withdrawn from the market, but I don’t follow that kind of news closely. Damn, I miss Seldane. That stuff really worked for me… cetirizine is a second-best, and loratadine doesn’t do much for me. (Bring back Seldane! The liver is evil and must be punished!)

    My other option is to start a safe-sex campaign among trees, funded by the sale of tree condoms.

    — Steve

    PS: I’ve only myself to blame for my semiannual misery, really;I moved to “the Forest City” of my own volition.

  21. You have green grass and budding trees and a happy, happy dog. Toronto had a taste of springlike weather a week ago, but it’s been rain, gusty winds, mud, bare trees and even SNOW ever since. We cannot take pills to make spring come faster. We deserve more sympathy.

  22. My worst times are December through May. When I remember I wear a mask or handkerchief when I cut the grass. It really helps. We’ve been in a months long drought so I have only had to mow once this year.

  23. Neti pot. It really does help and the cost is mininal. Less than minimal if you mix your own saline.

  24. @Dr. Mike–um, I actually get sedated by Allegra.

    However, Benadryl is my friend, at least until I build up enough of it in my system. Then it’s more likely to wire me up than sedate me.

    This has been a horrible year for allergies so far in PDX. When the temps first hit 60 degrees, every fracking thing in town went into immediate bloom…along with mold spores. My only relief is to go skiing. Seriously. No pollen yet at Timberline.

  25. @Anton DIgital Atheist was correct about Seldane’s effects on the heart when combined with many other drugs. Hepatotoxicity esp. when combined with alcohol is Tylenol’s dirty little (ot so)secret; which is why the FDA is in the process of forcing lower amounts in prescription painkillers.

  26. @anton

    “In June 1990, evidence of serious ventricular arrhythmias among those taking Seldane prompted the FDA to issue a report on the risk factors associated with concomitant use of the drug with macrolide antibiotics and ketoconazole.[1] Two months later, the FDA required the manufacturer to send a letter to all physicians, alerting them to the problem; in July 1992 the existing precautions were elevated to a black box warning[1] and the issue attracted mass media attention in reports that people with liver disease or who took ketoconazole, an antifungal agent, or the antibiotic erythromycin, could suffer cardiac arrhythmia if they also took Seldane.”

    Seldane is one i never had the chance to try. For me it has always been Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton if things got really bad. Pop some pseudephedrine with them and live a half way normal life.

  27. I love Claritin D, but sometimes it makes my heart race. Nasonex is the way to go… that stuff is magic.

  28. I take antiseizure meds, which make me effectively “allergic” to Benadryl. All I can take when I get a head cold is plain pseudoephedrine, and plain acetaminophen. And I have to stop taking the pseudoephedrine around 5pm or so, otherwise I’m awake all night. Unfortunately, allergy/sinus meds which make a “normal” person drowsy actually keep me awake, and the non-drowsy formulations just emphasize the hyperactivity that much more. The gods must hate me, because it’s damn near impossible to find allergy/sinus formulations that *arent’* non-drowsy anymore. That’s why I have to stop the pseudoephedrine so early in the evening, otherwise, as I said, I’m quite literally awake all night.

  29. @Digital Atheist

    Yes, there were a bunch of drugs approved about that time that turned out to bind to the same ion channel in the heart and were all quickly withdrawn. Now that’s screened for early in development. Allegra (fexofenadine) is actually the active form of Seldane (terfenadine), so it should have the same good effects together with killing you less often.

    Like John, I actually find Claritin to work (at slightly higher than the minimum dose), but it only had to work for a 3-4 week allergy season in Seattle, and I’m hoping for none at all now I’ve moved to Auckland, where the trees are different. I don’t think the benefits are placebo effect, but I don’t want to think too hard about it in case they go away…

  30. Clairtin= Sleep paralysis. I don’t even rollover when i am asleep, and if I wake up its only my brain thats awake. scary, scary stuff. Good to know it works for someone!

  31. Wow. Somehow I never realized that you, too, suffer from Allergy To Spring. And you live in southern Ohio. That’s rough.

    What everyone said about Claritin. Allegra (fexofenadine) is now OTC, and these are the months during which I live on it.

  32. Yeah, yesterday, it finally really SEEMED like spring in Ohio. Only about a month late. Things in bloom, warm sunshine, springy grass, leaves budding. (I am blessed in not suffering from allergies, so I enjoyed it a lot.)

  33. We had snow on the ground here in Chicago this morning. SNOW. Meanwhile, people in Georgia are complaining about the heat.

    Right now, they’re probably complaining more about tornadoes.

  34. Interesting to see the comment about liver toxicity and the FDA moving to take the tylenol out of painkillers. This is totally off the allergy subject, but I take percocet on a semi-regular basis for severe fibromyalgia and arthritis and am panicking at the thought of the FDA messing with my meds. I find it sad that because people can’t follow instructions not to drink and take tylenol or not to mix products that have tylenol in them, the government has to mess with those of us who do follow instructions. Also scary. I finally found a pain control regimen that worked and they’re going to screw with it, just like they screwed with the pseudophedrine because people were buying it up in large quantities to make meth.

    Why do those of us who follow the rules ALWAYS have to pay for those people who are either law breakers or too stupid to read the instructions?

    Sorry, will get off my soap box now.

  35. I have heard about something called the BAX therapy treatment, which is an allergy treatment involving lasers. Seriously. I am curious if anyone knows whether it works. The only person I know who has tried it swears it has gotten rid of her food allergies, but she works for the doctor’s office that offers the treatment, so I am a little skeptical. Anyone?

  36. And John gets to come to MN in time to be greeted by a half a foot of snow!

    Well, hopefully it’ll be melted by then. And, hey, your sinuses will get a break, as we have no blooming plants or leaves or flowers to speak of at this point.

  37. I’ve had regular five-element acupuncture treatments for years, and it’s very helpful. I rarely have attacks now, and if I do they’re minor enough that popping a Claritin takes care of it. Mind you, in most cases acupuncture won’t work right away (though for some it does.) For me it took time to build up my immune system, but has been well worth it.

  38. I don’t know what the pollen count average is in other areas; but, I can tell you that if you have allergy issues or breathing problems to stay out of Atlanta in the early spring. We average pollen counts above 2000 and once had a count of 6,013 in 1999. Yesterday’s count was a very low 154, down from 3301 a couple of weeks ago.

    Down here we don’t call a sinus doctor, we call Roto-Rooter.

  39. A veritable trove of medicinal data is revealed beneath the bacony façade of this weblog! Thank you to everyone!
    While largely freed of most allergies’ tyranny (Chinese Elm trees, I still love you but will never climb you again), the occasional effective decongestant is of great use – unless it gets pulled off the market. Anyone happen to know a reason why xylometazoline (active ingredient in Neosynephrin_II) is no longer OTC?

  40. Actually, I’m far more allergic to Claritin than to anything flying around in the air during spring. So no season is Claritin season for me. Benadryl and Actifed are my antihistamines of choice when I need an antihistamine. If I ever need a more potent one, I’ll probably try Zyrtec, but I’m somewhat leery about trying new ones after the breaking-out-in-giant-hives incident with the Claritin. Though it has provided endless amusement ever since in the form of double-takes from various doctors, nurses and pharmacists when they ask me about medication allergies.

  41. Jeff #47 – me too! I really recommend acupuncture for those who suffer from seasonal allergies and sinus pressures. It’s amazing. I still have to take an occasional antihistamine on terrible days, but for the most part, it freed me from dependence on medication to get through the day.

    You can see an acupuncturist on a fairly aggressive schedule at the beginning and gradually taper off so that you need only an occasional visit. Personally, I look forward to the relaxation and quiet with my therapist, so it’s a treat to go.

  42. Sorry to hear spring brings such suffering to you.

    I have some allergies, but no where near as bad as that….

  43. On can be helped by certain allergies by shots. Jim and Margene and I are three, a triad that lives together. when it all started, Margene was allergic to cats. Once upon a time she had taken allergy shots that were broad spectrum and they made her very ill.

    This time she took shots that were just dog and cat specific. It worked for cats, dogs not so much (cats are pretty much one protein allergy from housecats to tigers, dogs are at least five proteins in dander).

    We’ve all had cats around since about 1994-5, and she has had no problem, even though a couple of cats sleep with her.

    And I have apparently ‘grown out’ of my allergies, I used to be allergic to plant materials all summer long. Now I have a bit of trouble when the maples bloom in early spring, and the a very little bit of trouble in Ragweed Season. Much less than before.

    From my point of view, allergies can be a moving target, they can get better, they can get worse, and if you have a hive-inducing allergy, please don’t take it for granted because it can freaking KILL you with enough exposure.

  44. The only time I ever suffered from allergies in Ohio was when I wore hard contacts, in the summer. It wasn’t even an issue with soft contacts, and who wears hard contacts now anymore? But then, I was raised there.

    Living in Florida now after a few years where it never gets cold enough to actually kill much and where something always seems to be blooming, I take loratidine (generic Claritin) 365 days of the year. And even sometimes that isn’t sufficient, and I sneeze and snot and drip out of my nose. So yes, I understand.

  45. A growing number of people who suffer from allergies and not finding the relief that they want from antihistamines are turning towards allergy shots to hopefully put and end to their dreaded sneezing, wheezing, itching and misery.So exactly what are allergy shots? Allergy shots actually contain a very small amount of whatever it is that you’re allergic to. If you have multiple allergies, such as a combination of indoor and outdoor allergies, then two shots are actually given. One for the outdoor allergies and one for the indoor allergies.;

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