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Looking for allergy relief? Prescriptions, rather than OTC remedies, are often more effective and cheaper in the long run.

1. Avoiding treatment can be costly

Nearly a third of adults have allergies. Suffer through the symptoms, and you could pay the price at work. During allergy attacks, one study found, employees lost more than two hours of productivity a day.

If you regularly take over-the-counter pills, get tested to pinpoint your allergens and fine-tune treatment.

The common skin-prick test is faster than a blood test and may save you a second office trip, says North Aurora, Ill., allergist Sakina Bajowala.

2. A prescription pays in more than one way

What your doctor prescribes may be more effective. For example, steroidal nasal sprays like Flonase beat OTC sprays, which shouldn't be used for more than a few days because they're habit forming, says Richard Madden, a physician in Belen, N.M.

Even when an OTC drug like Claritin or Zyrtec works fine for you, ask for a prescription anyway. That way, you can pay for the pills with the pretax dollars in your flexible spending account.

3. Shots pay off over time

Your doctor may suggest immunotherapy -- shots one or two times a week for up to eight months, tapering down to monthly over three to five years. A recent study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that immunotherapy patients saw 38% lower treatment costs owing to fewer overall doctor visits and drugs.

"You put in your work and expense upfront and get all the benefit down the road," says Bajowala.

4. An alternative treatment is on you

Acupuncture, biofeedback, hypnosis, and even eating local honey are touted as treatments, but there's little clinical data to prove widespread effectiveness over the long term. While your insurance may pay for a $100 acupuncture session for back pain, allergies are less likely to be covered.

One homebrew that gets a thumbs-up from doctors: nasal irrigation. No need to spring for a $100 contraption -- a $20 drugstore variety with distilled water is fine for most.

5. For gear, there's no need to splurge

The best air purifier is your air conditioner, says Gaithersburg, Md., allergist Jacqueline Eghrari-Sabet. Just add a HEPA filter to trap pollen, dust, and mold spores. With no AC, a basic $50 HEPA air purifier works fine, especially in small rooms.

When you're allergic to heavier allergens that settle quickly -- like dust mites and cat hair -- air purifiers may not help much, though. Get a HEPA filter for your vacuum and clean often.

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In addition to my previous comment below, I find it so ludicrious to blame plant pollen or animal dander as major causes of allergies.. It is actually your body defenses that collapse from repetitive exposures to wicked air pollution happening in your neighborhood that makes you more vlunerable to natural causes of allergies like pollen, animal dander ,etc. Sometimes, neighbors just dont like you and decide to harass you with so called witchcraft that is nothing but basic chemistry designed to wreck your natural body defenses...

May 05 2013 at 7:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

neighborhood air pollution is the leading cause of allergies. it is never mentioned at all for obvious political reasons as it will mean controlling your neighbors on what to use and what not to use. What I mean is that some neighbors really stink!! espeically if you happen to be unfortunate enough to live downwind of that stinky neighbor. Some neighbors use firewood everyday. some are pesticide addicts or weed control freaks! Some still use charcoal with heavy doses of lighter fluids almost every day. Some do a lot of woodmaking that throw a lot of sawdust around or do alot of welding that creates lots of metallic dust airborne. The long list goes on that make neighborhood air so unlivable !! Just because neighbors are not corporations, EPA and other health associations tend to ignore the unhealthful behaiors of neighbors. Businesses are forbidden to do exactly same sloppy behaviors that neighbors routinely get away with. Some re home run businesses. So I hope I am helpful with questions about your allergy relief. So long , !

May 05 2013 at 7:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply