By Brenda Owen

Daily Journal

In addition to the traditional medicines, there’s a new weapon in the battle against stuffy noses due to allergy symptoms.

The Food and Drug Administration recently cleared the way for Breathe Right¨ nasal strips to be marketed as a temporary remedy for nasal congestion. Congestion narrows the already small about 1/10 of an inch breathing space at the back of the nostril, making breathing more difficult. The nasal strips widen air passages, and essentially allow sufferers to breathe right through the congestion.

Invented by an allergy sufferer in 1987, the strips were first cleared to be marketed as a temporary remedy for snoring by the FDA in 1993. Doctors soon discovered, though, that the strips helped about 80 percent of patients with nasal congestion breathe better, according to Dr. Daniel E. Cohen, a physician and CEO of CNS, Inc. which distributes the product.

“While wearing a strip at night, the nasal passageway is more likely to stay open, making breathing easier,” Cohen said.

The strips provide a non-prescription solution for people concerned with medications, sleep quality, pregnancy and issues related to drug interactions, he said.

“Clinical studies have show that nasal strips can reduce nasal airflow resistance by an average of 31 percent,” Cohen said.

Historically, there have been two basic types of non-prescription drugs to battle allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are preventive drugs that are best taken before the symptoms appear. Nasal decongestants counteract symptoms after they appear.

There are prescription variations of these drugs that may be more effective, but you’ll need to see your doctor about them. With over-the-counter drugs, you can save money if you read the labels carefully. If two brands have the same active ingredients, pick the one that costs less.

Another reason to check the label is that different active ingredients affect people differently. And one active ingredient may lose its effectiveness after a while, meaning you need to change to another one.

Be careful about shotgun” drugs that combine a number of active ingredients for a variety of symptoms. Combination products can be much more expensive than the generic versions of the few individual drugs you probably need,” said a January 1996 Consumer Reports article.

In addition to saving money, you’ll reduce the chances of side effects and drug interactions. However, many allergists will prescribe allergy medicines that contain both antihistamines and nasal decongestants.

Antihistamines prevent the release of histamines, which cause mucous membranes to dilate and leak. To be effective, antihistamines need to be taken before symptoms appear.

The side effects are that they often cause drowsiness, particularly those containing diphenhydramine. Other side effects include dry mouth and difficulty urinating.

A sampling of active ingredients, and the brands they’re found in:

– Clemastine: Tavist-D, Tavist-1.

– Brompheniramine: Alka-Seltzer Plus Sinus Allergy Medicine, Bromfed Syrup, Dimetapp, Vicks DayQuil Allergy Relief Tablets.

– Chlorpheniramine: Allerest, A.R.M., Chlor-Trimeton, Comtrex, Contac, Novahistine, Sinarest, Sudafed Plus Liquid, Triaminic Allergy Tablets, Tylenol Allergy Medicine.

– Diphenhydramine: Actifed Caplets, Benadryl.

– Triprolidine: Actifed Plus

Nasal decongestants shrink swelling in the nasal passages by constricting blood vessels, relieving stuffiness and making it easier to breathe. The side effects are that overuse can increase stuffiness rather than reduce it. In oral form they tend to elevate blood pressure and heart rate.

Following is a sampling of active nasal decongestant ingredients, and the brands they’re found in:

– Pseudoephedrine: Actifed, Benedryl, Comtrex, Efidac, Robutussin, Sinarest, Sinutab, Sudafed, Tylenol Allergy Medicine.

– Phenylpropanolamine: Allerest, A.R.M., Contac, Dimetapp, Novahistine, Tavist-D, Triaminic Allergy Tablets.

– Oxymetazoline: Afrin, Neo-Synepherine, Vicks Sinex nasal spray.

– Phenylephrine: Dristan, Neo-Synepherine regular.

Associated Press contributed to this article.

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