What You Need to Know About Allergy Medications

When taking medication for your nasal allergies, you need to:

  • Keep your doctor informed about all other medications, herbal remedies, and supplements you're taking.
  • Know what the allergy medication you're taking is supposed to do. Also be sure you know the proper way to take your allergy medication.
  • Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about possible side effects of your allergy medications. Be sure you know which ones are serious and what you should do if you have them.
  • Know whether or not your allergy medication causes drowsiness. If it does, be sure you know when it's safe to use and what you shouldn't do when using it, such as drive a car.
  • Talk with your doctor about which nasal allergy medications are right for you if you have any of the following medical problems: stomach or bladder obstructions, narrow-angle glaucoma, peptic ulcers, or enlarged prostate.

Allergy medications will not cure your nasal allergies. But they will work to prevent or to relieve symptoms of an allergic reaction. Sometimes, you need to take more than one kind of allergy medicine to control all of your allergy symptoms. For instance, you may need both an antihistamine and a decongestant. Sometimes, the allergy medications themselves will be a combination of more than one kind of allergy medicine.


Many of these allergy medicines are available over the counter (OTC), meaning you can buy them without a prescription. There are also allergy medications that are available by prescription only. Some of the newer antihistamines, for example, are only available with a prescription. Many of these antihistamines don't make you drowsy and may be safer to use.

Talk with your doctor about your goals for controlling your nasal allergies. For many people, a combination of avoiding allergens and taking the right allergy medications at the right time provides the control they need. Also talk with your doctor about other drugs you take or have taken and about your health in general. For help in talking with your doctor, see Diagnosing Allergies.

See Allergy Medicine for a list of medications that can help control symptoms of nasal allergies.

If you're pregnant, make sure all of your doctors know what drugs you take and ask if they can be taken during pregnancy. It might be best to avoid all allergy medications if your allergies are mild. If your allergies are severe, there are some allergy medications that are less likely to have any effect on your baby. Check with your doctor.



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Written by Karen Serrano, MD Emergency Medicine resident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Reviewed by Lisa V. Suffian, MD

Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine

Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, Saint Louis University

Board certified in Allergy and Immunology

Last updated June 2008