Avoiding the allergens that cause allergic reactions and knowing which allergy medications to use to prevent allergy symptoms are two strategies that will help keep your nasal allergies under control. But it's often impossible to avoid all allergens. So when allergy symptoms do occur, you need to know how to ease them.
The first step in easing allergy symptoms is knowing which allergy medicines work for which allergy 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 allergy medications to use. In most cases, the simpler the product, the better. Be thoughtful about using combination allergy 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 allergy medication for you.
Use the following chart to help you determine which type of over-the-counter allergy medication may be best for relieving the allergy 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 allergy symptom or symptoms and look down the column to see which allergy medication can be very effective in easing it. If you have more than one allergy symptom, you'll need to check them all. Ask your pharmacist for help.
- Look at a particular type of allergy medication. Follow the row to the right to see how well it will ease the allergy symptoms you have.
|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|
|Intranasal 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|
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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