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Allergies Health Center

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Allergic Rhinitis - Medications

Medicines are a key part of treatment for allergic rhinitis.

Over-the-counter medicine

There are many types of allergy medicines you can buy without a prescription, such as:

  • Antihistamines. These help your sneezing, runny nose, itching, and watery eyes.
  • Decongestants or a corticosteroid nasal spray camera.gif. These help relieve a stuffy nose.
  • Eyedrops. These help red, itchy, and watery eyes.

Prescription medicines

If over-the-counter medicines don't work or if they cause bothersome side effects such as drowsiness, your doctor may prescribe a stronger or different medicine for you. For example, corticosteroid nasal sprays may reduce all symptoms of allergic rhinitis. They work well for most people. They start working quickly, but it may be several weeks before you get the full effect.

Your doctor may suggest other medicines if these don't work or in special cases, such as if you are pregnant. Other medicines include:

  • Ipratropium bromide. It can relieve a runny nose.
  • Leukotriene modifiers. These can relieve a stuffy nose, itching and sneezing, and a runny nose.

Use medicine safely

Some people begin using over-the-counter medicines for allergic rhinitis before they see their doctors. These medicines can work well. But people who have other medical problems, older adults, children, women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, and people who have more than occasional mild symptoms should see a doctor before starting self-treatment. For example:

  • If you are pregnant, talk with your doctor about which allergy medicines are safe when pregnant. Some medicines might be better for you and your baby than others. If possible, don't use medicine for at least the first 3 months of your pregnancy.
  • When you treat children with medicine, know that it may be more difficult than treating adults because of the possible side effects. Some medicines also may not be approved for treating children. Be especially careful with antihistamines and decongestants. They may not be safe for young children, so check the label first. If you do give these medicines to a child, always follow the directions about how much to give based on the child's age and weight.

Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label slideshow.gif. Do not use the medicine longer than the label says.

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