Allergies and Your Sinuses: Fighting Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic Rhinitis Treatments: Over-the-Counter Medicine
Do you have mild allergic rhinitis -- or symptoms that only strike for a few weeks a year? Then over-the-counter (OTC) medicines may be enough. (OTC means you don’t need a prescription).
OTC treatments for allergic rhinitis include:
Steroid nasal sprays. These drugs work by reducing the swelling in the nasal passages. Doctors recommend this as your first choice for treatment because of effectiveness and simplicity of use. Many are available by prescription, and some -- including budesonide (Rhinocort), fluticasone propionate (Flonase) and triamcinolone acetonide (Nasacort) -- are available over the counter.
. These drugs work by blocking histamine, a chemical that causes many allergy symptoms. They help relieve itching and sneezing. Examples include cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), and (Claritin). The antihistamines chlorpheniramine and diphenhydramine are known to cause drowsiness. If your main problem is sneezing and itching, your doctor may recommend one of these, possibly also with other treatments, too.
. Though antihistamines can control many allergy symptoms, they don’t relieve congestion. That’s where decongestants can come in. Some you take by mouth, and others are nasal sprays. They reduce swelling in the nasal passages, opening them up.
Don't use nasal spray decongestants like naphazoline (), oxymetazoline (Afrin, Dristan, Duramist), or phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine, Rhinall, Sinex) for more than three days at a time. If you use them for too long, they can make your symptoms worse. Doctors call that a rebound effect.
Oral decongestants -- those you take by mouth, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Sudogest) -- aren’t OK for everyone. These medicines raise blood pressure, so you shouldn’t take them if you already have high blood pressure or certain heart-related conditions. Men who have trouble peeing because of an enlarged prostate may find that this problem gets worse if they take decongestants.
Other drugs. A few other over-the-counter drugs may help, too. Many others are available by prescription, as mentioned below. sodium (NasalCrom) is a nasal spray that can ease a runny or itchy nose, sneezing, and a stuffy nose due to allergies. Allergy eye drops with the ingredients naphazoline (Naphcon-A, AK-Con-A) and tetrahydrozoline (OptiClear) can relieve red eyes. Other eye drops with ketotifen (Zaditor, Alaway), an antihistamine, help relieve itchy eyes.