Understand Your Options

Your doctor may recommend prescription or over-the-counter allergy medications to relieve symptoms.  Here’s what you need to know.

Antihistamines reduce or block symptom-causing histamines and are available in many forms, including tablets and liquids.  Many oral antihistamines are available over the counter (OTC) and in generic form.  When choosing an OTC antihistamine, read the Drug Facts label closely and follow the dosing instructions.  One thing to change:  To avoid antihistamine-related daytime drowsiness, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about a non-sedating oral or nasal antihistamine option.

Nasal corticosteroids are typically sprayed into the nose to treat inflammation.  They may take several days to start working and should be taken continuously during allergy season or all year, if your allergies require year-round treatment.

Decongestants are available both by prescription and OTC and come in oral and nasal-spray forms.  They are sometimes recommended in combination with antihistamines which, used alone, do not reduce nasal congestion.  They should not be used for more than a few days, as rebound congestion can occur.  Decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine are available without a prescription but are kept behind the pharmacy counter to prevent their use in making methamphetamine, a powerful, highly addictive stimulant often produced illegally.  You’ll need to show identification to purchase medications that contain pseudoephedrine.

Source:  U.S. Food and Drug Administration