Yes, it’s allergy season. You wake up with itchy eyes. You sneeze throughout the day, and you just feel miserable for hours. Trust me, I know. I am allergic just like you. The question for all of us is ‘What can you do for relief?’

First, a piece of advice. The prescription allergy products are no better than the ones you can buy over the counter. So, why pay more for the same thing? If you are concerned about medicines that make you drowsy during the day, choose Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra. Good old-fashioned Benadryl is still a very effective choice, but it may make you drowsy. Lastly, if you suffer from a stuffy nose in addition to common allergy symptoms, then try one of the products with the “D” formulation such as Claritin-D or Zyrtec-D. They contain a decongestant to help provide you with additional relief.

Q: For at least 15 years now, I have been drinking cranberry juice to help prevent urinary tract infections. Now, my sister tells me it’s a lot of bunk.

A: I hate to tell you this, but your sister is right. At least, there’s no data supporting the belief that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements prevents urinary tract infections. There is evidence that cranberries seem to act by preventing bacteria, such as E. coli, from sticking to the bladder wall, but there’s no guarantee they will prevent recurrent urinary tract infections.

Q: How much Echinacea should I take to cure a cold?
A: Stop! Stop right there. There’s no proof, none whatsoever, that Echinacea prevents, cures, or decreases the severity of colds. The debate still rages, but a recent large study failed to prove any benefit with Echinacea pills compared to placebo pills or no pills. But if you still are a true believer, go ahead. The worse that could happen is some mild nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Q: Here’s one for you. My “organic” friends tell me I can get the same relief for my sore joints as I do using ibuprofen by eating raisins soaked in gin, — yeah, that’s what I said, raisins soaked in gin.
A:  While some folks swear by them, there are no studies that support the efficacy of gin-soaked raisins for pain.  That said, one-theory notes that the recipe calls for golden raisins, not the brown ones. Golden raisins are made by exposing drying grapes to sulfur dioxide. Some think the sulfur may have anti-inflammatory effects. Another sulfur compound, methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is taken by some patients to relieve the pain and swelling of arthritis…but it’s not proven to help either. Another theory is that it’s the juniper berries used to make gin that help. Juniper is used topically for muscle and joint aches and pains.

Q: I’ve been told there is more than one dose worth of epinephrine in each “EpiPen” device. Can the devise be reused if I have another allergic reaction?
A: No, it can’t.  It’s true that only one-fourth of the epinephrine in an “EpiPen” auto-injector is released with the injection. The extra epinephrine in the cartridge is overfill to ensure that the release mechanism works properly. You can’t get to the overfill epinephrine without dismantling the device and taking out the cartridge. Please, don’t do this. The extra epinephrine isn’t separated into individual doses, so if you get it out; you could inject the wrong amount. Instead, use an extra EpiPen, or use the Twinject if you think you could need 2 doses of epinephrine.

Dr. Daphne Bernard, Pharm,D., is a registered pharmacist in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. A doctor of pharmacy, she is currently assistant dean and associate professor at the Howard University School of Pharmacy and a member of numerous boards and associations, including the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the District of Columbia Board of Pharmacy, the Nonprescription Medicines Academy, Rho Chi Honor Society, American Pharmacists Association and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Please email her at