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What medications can be used to treat pollen allergies?

Endocrinologist, WebMD Medical Expert
Medical Editor, WebMD

If efforts to avoid pollen are not enough to relieve your pollen allergy symptoms, you may need medication.

Here are some of the different types of medications your doctor may recommend or prescribe for pollen allergies:

Nasal corticosteroids. These are inflammatory medications sprayed directly into the nose to relieve nasal congestion and other allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itching. They include Beconase, Flonase, Nasacort, Nasonex, Omnaris, Rhinocort, Veramyst, and Nasalide.

Antihistamines. These drugs counteract the action of histamine, a substance released in the body during an allergic reaction. They are available over the counter or by prescription. Some are taken by mouth; some are sold as nasal sprays.

Antihistamines available over the counter include: Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine), Claritin (loratadine),and Zyrtec (cetirizine). Allegra (fexofenadine) is also due to be sold over the counter in 2011.

Prescription antihistamines include Allegra (fexofenadine) and Clarinex (desloratadine).

Astelin (azelastine) and Patanase (olopatadine) are antihistamine nasal sprays that are approved to treat allergy symptoms.

Decongestants. Like antihistamines, these drugs are available by prescription and over the counter and come in oral and nasal spray forms. Sudafed is an example of a decongestant.  Sometimes they are used along with antihistamines. Some products contain both an antihistamine and decongestant. For example, Allegra-D, Claritin-D, and Zyrtec-D contain an antihistamine and the decongestant pseudoephedrine.

Others. Other medication options include a nasal spray called NasalCrom (cromolyn sodium), which helps stabilize cells that contribute to allergic reactions.  These are available without a prescription. Another prescription drug is Singulair (montelukast sodium), which works by blocking substances called leukotreines.  

Because allergy medications can cause side effects or interact with other drugs you are taking, you should always speak with your doctor before starting an allergy medication, even an over-the-counter one.