Avoiding the allergens that cause allergic reactions and knowing which medications to use to prevent symptoms are two strategies that will help keep your nasal allergies under control. But it's often impossible to avoid all allergens. So when symptoms do occur, you need to know how to ease them.

The first step in easing symptoms is knowing which medicines work for which symptom. But with the dozens of over-the-counter and prescription products available for treating allergies, that can be quite a challenge.

It's important to read labels carefully and to talk with your pharmacist and doctor before making any decisions about which medications to use. In most cases, the simpler the product, the better. Be thoughtful about using combination medications. Those are the types that contain more than one medicine. With them, you may be taking medications you don't need. Ask for professional help to sort out the best combination medication for you.

Use the following chart to help you determine which type of over-the-counter medication may be best for relieving the symptoms you have. The chart is a general guide only. Not everyone will have the same results. You can use the chart in either of these ways.

  • Find your symptom or symptoms and look down the column to see which medication can be very effective in easing it. If you have more than one symptom, you'll need to check them all. Ask your pharmacist for help.

  • Look at a particular type of medication. Follow the row to the right to see how well it will ease your symptoms.

Medication Sneezing and itching Runny nose Stuffy nose Red, watery, itchy eyes
Pill form of antihistamine May be very effective May be very effective May or may not be effective May be somewhat effective
Pill form of decongestant May not be effective May possibly be effective May be very effective May not be effective
Pill form of decongestant and antihistamine combination May be very effective May be very effective May be very effective May be very effective
Intranasal corticosteroid sprays or drops May be very effective May be very effective May be somewhat effective May be somewhat effective
Nasal decongestant May not be effective May possibly be effective May be very effective May not be effective
Cromolyn sodium nasal spray May be somewhat effective May be somewhat effective May be very effective May not be effective
Nasal saline sprays or drops May be somewhat effective May not be effective May be somewhat effective May not be effective
Cromolyn sodium eye drops May not be effective May not be effective May not be effective May be somewhat effective
Antihistamine or decongestant eye drops May not be effective May not be effective May not be effective May be somewhat effective