If you have been struggling with symptoms of allergy, you may take an over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medicine. And, of course, that is true for most people. Many allergy drugs that were once available only under a prescription are now easily available without a prescription. But that may confuse you in the drugstore aisle while trying to figure out which allergy medicine is right for you.
Before choosing any OTC allergy medication, it is important to understand what is making you experience allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, red or watery eyes, skin rashes, etc. More often than not, it's an allergen, such as pollen, dust, mold, pet dander, or any another substance, which the immune system takes as a dangerous invader and reacts.
Upon an allergic reaction, the immune system releases a substance designed to fight the allergen, which is called histamine. Histamine stimulates or causes inflammation, triggering the symptoms of allergy. If your respiratory system is involved, the condition is called allergic rhinitis (hay fever). If your skin is involved, it is called urticaria.
Typically, there are two ways that can help you overcome allergies. First, blocking the secretion of histamine with antihistamine drugs, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), or fexofenadine (Allegra). Second, inhibiting the immune system response before the body even releases histamine with corticosteroid nasal sprays.
Using antihistamines is one of the safe and effective ways to treat allergies. If you experience an allergy from pollen, weeds, or grasses, physicians often recommend trying an allergy medicine containing an antihistamine drug for prompt relief.
First-generation antihistamines, such as chlorpheniramine and diphenhydramine, cause drowsiness and dizziness in some people, which may lead to accidental falls. Instead, physicians suggest taking second-generation antihistamines that are less likely to cause drowsiness or dizziness, such as cetirizine, fexofenadine or loratadine.
If an allergy medicine containing an antihistamine drug is not improving your symptoms, you may have to use a corticosteroid nasal spray. Nasal sprays containing corticosteroid work better than oral antihistamines for allergy symptoms such as a stuffy nose and congestion.
There are also OTC decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, which narrow the blood vessels and reduce inflammation in the nose, provide instant relief. Older adults are more sensitive to the side effects of OTC decongestants. In addition, decongestants are known to increase your blood pressure, increasing the risk of anxiety, insomnia, and an increased heart rate.
Pharmacists often recommend trying out OTC allergy medicines that contain antihistamines treat allergy symptoms. If you still have symptoms and are concerned about side effects, consult with your primary care physician, or an allergist.
Sometimes it takes some efforts to find the best allergy medicine to relieve your symptoms. Physicians recommend trying conventional treatments first, such as antihistamines and corticosteroid nasal sprays.
Through five years of health writing and marketing experience, George Whittington has developed a reputation for deriving valuable, authoritative, engaging content. He works for SamRx as a content manager and has been converting complex topics into a clear, easy-to-understand manner for general audiences. Of late, he has been working on providing information on Best Allergy Medicine.