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    Allergy Medications

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    In general, there is no cure for allergies, but there are several types of medications available -- both over-the-counter and prescription -- to help ease and treat annoying symptoms like congestion and runny nose. These allergy drugs include antihistamines, decongestants, combination drugs, corticosteroids, and others.

    Allergy shots, which gradually increase your ability to tolerate allergens, are also available.

    Recommended Related to Allergies

    Managing Allergies at School

    Does your child miss school due to allergies? If so, you're not alone. Seasonal allergies are believed to affect as many as 40% of U.S. children. On any given day, about 10,000 of those children miss school because of their allergies. That's a total of more than 2 million lost school days every year. Even if your child doesn't miss school, allergies can get in the way of a productive school day, so managing allergies at school is an important part of caring for your child's health.

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    Antihistamines

    Antihistamines have been used for years to treat allergy symptoms. They can be taken as pills, liquid, nasal spray, or eye drops. Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine eye drops can relieve red itchy eyes, while nasal sprays can be used to treat the symptoms of seasonal or year-round allergies.

    Examples of antihistamines include:

    • Over-the-counter: bromepheniramine (Dimetapp allergy, Nasahist B), cetirizine (Zyrtec), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), clemastine (Tavist),  diphenhydramine (Benadryl), fexofenadine (Allegra), and loratadine (Claritin, Alavert). Pheniramine (OcuHist) is an eye drop.
    • Prescription: Clarinex and Xyzal are oral medications. Astelin is a prescription nasal antihistamine spray. Prescription antihistamine eye drops include Patanol and Elestat and Optivar.

     

    How Do Antihistamines Work?

    When you are exposed to an allergen -- for example ragweed pollen -- it triggers your immune system. People with allergies demonstrate an exaggerated immune response. Immune system cells known as "mast cells" release a substance called histamine, which attaches to receptors in blood vessels, causing them to enlarge. Histamine also binds to other receptors causing redness, swelling, itching, and changes in secretions. By blocking histamine and keeping it from binding to receptors, antihistamines prevent these symptoms.

    What Are the Side Effects of Antihistamines?

    Many older over-the-counter antihistamines may cause drowsiness. Newer, non-sedating second- and third-generation antihistamines are available over-the-counter or by prescription.

    Decongestants

    Decongestants relieve congestion and are often prescribed along with antihistamines for allergies. They can come in nasal spray, eye drop, liquid, or pill form.

    Nasal spray and eye drop decongestants should be used for only a few days at a time, because long-term use can actually make symptoms worse. Pills and liquid decongestants may be taken longer safely.

    Some examples of decongestants that are available over-the-counter include:

    • pseudoephedrine (Sudafed tablets or liquid, Actifed), phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine) and oxymetazoline (Afrin) nasal sprays, and some Visine eye drops

     

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