Do I Need a Pill or a Spray for My Nasal Allergies?

In a perfect world, you could avoid whatever triggers your allergies. Because that's not always possible, there are lots of treatment options. Which should you choose?

Many types of allergy pills or nasal spray are available with or without a prescription. Both work best if you use them before you're around your triggers.

Nasal Sprays

These rarely have side effects except for maybe an irritated nose or a bitter taste in your mouth. You can try a moisturizing nasal gel after you use the spray or switch to a different type if your nose gets irritated. Talk to your doctor if they bother you.

Saline spray . Salt water sprays can ease stuffiness and loosen mucus. You can buy them over-the-counter. They don't have medication in them, just water and salt.

Steroid spray. These can help with most allergy symptoms like sneezing, itching, runny nose, and congestion (stuffiness). Because they are so effective and rarely have side effects, they are a very popular allergy treatment. They are often the first things doctors recommend along with taking an antihistamine.

They may start to work right away. But for some people, it can take 1-2 weeks before they help you feel better. To help them work their best, use them every day.

Antihistamine spray. These prescription sprays usually work within minutes and can ease postnasal drip, congestion, and sneezing. You can use them every day or just when you have symptoms.

Decongestant spray. These prescription and nonprescription sprays can help unclog stuffy noses. Don't use them for more than 3 days or your stuffiness could get worse.

Cromolyn sodium spray. These nonprescription sprays (such as Nasalcrom) help prevent allergy symptoms. They calm some of the body's reaction to allergens. You usually have to use them for a few days before they start to work.

Anticholinergic spray. Often used together with antihistamines, this spray (Atrovent) is used to treat clear, runny noses.

Allergy Pills

You may want to try these on their own or with a nasal spray to get allergy relief.

Antihistamines. Prescription and nonprescription antihistamines can help if you sneeze, itch, and have a runny nose. But they don't ease congestion. Newer prescription antihistamines are less likely to make you drowsy. Sometimes your doctor will suggest these together with a decongestant and maybe a steroid nasal spray.

Decongestants . They shrink swollen nasal tissues and relieve stuffy noses. Decongestants don't usually work as quickly in pill form as they do in sprays.

These drugs can raise blood pressure, so talk to your doctor before taking them, especially if you have high blood pressure.

Combination pills. Some drugs combine decongestants and antihistamines to ease many symptoms. They can relieve itching, sneezing, and a runny, stuffy nose.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD on June 29, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "Allergy Medications."

FamilyDoctor.org: "Allergic Rhinitis: Treatment."

Medscape: "Allergic Rhinitis Medication."

UptoDate.com: "Patient information: Allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) (Beyond the Basics)."

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