Which Allergy Medicine Is Best For You?

Senior taking medication(BlackDoctor.org) — Allergy sufferers can choose from an array of allergy medicine — over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription — that can be taken orally, as a nasal spray, as eye drops, or by injection.

Depending on your symptoms and the cause of your allergy, certain forms of allergy medicine may work better than others. The following types of allergy medicine are available today:

Antihistamines. Antihistamines are a type of allergy medicine that comes in liquid, tablet, or nasal spray form and is commonly used to treat allergic rhinitis and hives. These medicines reduce allergic symptoms by blocking the action of histamine, which is a chemical released during an allergic reaction. Antihistamines can be classified as sedating or non-sedating. Side effects such as dry mouth, problems with urination, constipation, and drowsiness are more common with sedating antihistamines. “Many of the non-sedating antihistamines are still prescription,” says Julie McNairn, MD, an allergist/immunologist in Cincinnati. But, she says, “a trial of over-the-counter antihistamine can certainly be appropriate.”

Decongestants. Decongestants temporarily cause blood vessels to squeeze down and reduce the amount of fluid that seeps out of the nasal blood vessels into the lining of the nose. In some cases of allergic rhinitis, which is inflammation of the nasal passages caused by allergies, decongestants can be combined with antihistamines. Decongestants are available both OTC and by prescription and come in liquid, nasal spray, and tablet form. These medications may cause nervousness, sleep problems, high blood pressure, and elevated heart rate in some people. They may also lead to “rebound rhinitis,” in which severe congestion occurs when the medication is stopped after three or four days.

Nasal rinses. Nasal rinses can be a very holistic way of treating allergies,” says Dr. McNairn, and can be used for people who have nasal symptoms related to their allergy. Nasal rinses involve flushing allergens and irritants from the nose with a salt-water solution. Nasal rinse kits are available OTC.

Leukotriene inhibitors. Leukotriene inhibitors such as azfirlukast (Accolate), montelukast (Singulair), and zileuton (Zyflo) block the action of chemicals in the body called leukotrienes. Leukotrienes cause inflammation, as well as swelling and contraction of the lining of the airways. These medications are primarily used for asthma, but may also be used to treat allergic rhinitis.