Allergy Treatment Strategies

Allergy Medications

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

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

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


If you decide to take allergy medicines. If you and your doctor decide that taking allergy medications is a good option for you, see Allergy Medication. Also keep this in mind: It is up to you to learn about your allergy medications and to make sure you use them safely and effectively. That means you'll need to do three things:

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

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

What to watch out for with OTC allergy medications. Many OTC antihistamines 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. Recently some non-sedating antihistamines have become available OTC. Consult with your allergy specialist to see if these might be the right allergy medications for you.

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





Allergy Treatment Strategies: Sticking to It

Making it Easier To Stick With Your Allergy Treatment

One way to make it easier to stick with your allergy treatment is to be sure you're getting all the benefit out of it you can. Keeping a diary and mastering the skills of self-management of your allergies will help. But it's also important to remember that controlling your nasal allergies is really a team effort.

Your nasal allergies can be managed with your doctor's help. But sometimes it may seem difficult to get what you need from your doctor. Below is a list of obstacles that may prevent you from getting what you need. Look over each barrier to success and review the accompanying strategies that can help you get the most from your doctor visits.


Barrier: My doctor is very busy and doesn't seem to have time to answer a lot of my questions about my allergies.

Success Strategy: You have a right to be informed. Your doctor wants your allergy symptoms to improve, so tell your doctor that you'd like to spend a few minutes discussing your questions at the beginning or end of your visit. Then start by asking those questions that are most important for you. Ask if there are nurse practitioners or other staff available for you to talk with, as well.

Barrier: I feel embarrassed asking questions about my allergies and allergy treatment.

Success Strategy: Part of your doctor's job is to provide you with information about your allergies and how you can get better. Doctors are used to answering questions. The only "silly" question is the one that doesn't get asked.

Barrier: I can't remember what I wanted to discuss or ask about my allergies until after I leave the doctor's office.

Success Strategy: Make a plan before you go for your visit. Think about what you'd like to accomplish and what questions you'd like to ask. For instance, maybe you want to talk with your doctor about your allergy medication side effects and ask about changing your dose or when you take your allergy medication. Write down your questions about your allergies and allergy treatment and take your list with you.

Barrier: I don't remember everything my doctor says.

Success Strategy: Take a notepad and write down what the doctor says, or bring along a friend or family member. Also, ask the doctor if there is any printed information about allergies or allergy treatments you can take home with you.

Barrier: I get nervous when I go to the doctor and have trouble talking about my allergies.

Success Strategy: Planning ahead helps. Bring along a list of the key points you want to cover with your doctor. If it makes you more comfortable, ask a trusted friend or family member to come with you. Take your personal allergy diary to the doctor's office and use it to discuss your issues.

Barrier: I don't know when I should call my doctor.

Success Strategy: Ask your doctor for a list of any symptoms that might require immediate attention. Also, ask which allergy medication side effects you should watch for, including the ones that are just bothersome and those that may be more serious.

Barrier: My doctor provides me with basic information about allergies and allergy treatment, but I need to know more.

Success Strategy: See more allergy articles to expand your knowledge and get more allergy information. In addition, you'll find other resources, toll-free numbers, and links listed in Allergy Information.


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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