Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Allergies Health Center

Font Size

Antihistamines for Allergic Rhinitis

Examples

Older (first-generation) over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines

Generic NameBrand Name
acrivastineSemprex-D
brompheniramine maleate
chlorpheniramine maleateChlor-Trimeton
clemastine fumarateTavist-1
diphenhydramine Benadryl
hydroxyzine Vistaril
promethazine

Newer (second-generation) over-the-counter antihistamines

Generic NameBrand Name
cetirizine Zyrtec
fexofenadine Allegra
loratadineAlavert, Claritin

Newer (second-generation) prescription antihistamines

Generic NameBrand Name
azelastineAstelin
desloratadineClarinex
levocetirizineXyzal
olopatadinePatanase

Antihistamines may be available as tablets, capsules, nasal sprays, or liquids. You can use them alone or combined with decongestants to treat allergic rhinitis.

How It Works

Many symptoms of allergic rhinitis, such as sneezing, itching, and runny nose, occur when your body releases a chemical called histamine. Antihistamine medicines block histamine and may reduce your symptoms.

Why It Is Used

You can use antihistamines to stop or reduce sneezing, runny nose, and watery and itchy eyes caused by an allergic reaction.

How Well It Works

All of these antihistamines work equally well to relieve sneezing, itching, and runny nose.

  • Antihistamines begin to provide relief in 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Antihistamines dry up the runny nose caused by allergies, but they usually do not clear up stuffiness.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

Call your doctor if you have:

Common side effects of this medicine include:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

In general, antihistamines don't relieve nasal congestion well. They are often combined with a decongestant in one product. These medicines may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last RevisedMay 14, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 14, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

man blowing nose
Make these tweaks to your diet, home, and lifestyle.
Allergy capsule
Breathe easier with these products.
 
cat on couch
Live in harmony with your cat or dog.
Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
Which ones affect you?
 

woman sneezing
Slideshow
Bottle of allergy capsules and daisies
Article
 
Urban blossoms
Slideshow
Woman blowing nose
Slideshow
 

Woman with itchy watery eyes
Slideshow
Allergy prick test
VIDEO
 
Man sneezing into tissue
Tools
woman with duster crinkling nose
Quiz