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Are allergy medications for me?

How to decide. To discover whether taking medications is the right approach for you, ask yourself 3 questions:

  • Am I unable to completely avoid my allergens?
  • Are my symptoms making my life uncomfortable?
  • Do I want better control of my nasal allergies?

If you answered "yes" to 1 or more of these questions, medication may be right for you.

If you decide to take medicines. If you and your doctor decide that taking medications is a good option for you, see What Do I Need to Know If I Take Medication for My Nasal Allergies? Also keep this in mind: It is up to you to learn about your medications and to make sure you use them safely and effectively. That means you'll need to do 3 things:

  • Carefully read the labels on all medications.
  • Ask your pharmacist for information. He or she can answer many of your questions and may give you written instructions.
  • Discuss your medications with your regular doctor and any specialists you see. Make sure you ask the right questions.

Benefits of OTC medicines. Many people find that over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines relieve their symptoms. They are also fairly inexpensive.

What to watch out for with OTC medications. The OTC antihistamines often cause drowsiness, impaired thinking, poor reaction times, and trouble concentrating. It is also illegal in many states to take OTC antihistamines when driving a car or operating machinery.

Benefits of prescription medicines. Prescription medications can often reduce the symptoms of nasal allergies without many of the side effects found in OTC medications. Your doctor will choose medications for you based on many factors, including your symptoms and medical history. In addition, he or she will consider which medicines have worked for you in the past, which haven't, and which you're taking now.