Sometimes it can be really hard to know which medicines to use to treat allergies. For instance, what do you need when you can’t stop from sneezing your head off as opposed to what to use when there is that lingering congested feeling and stuffiness. Sometimes allergies lead to other ailments, but those need to be treated separately, like ear infections. The basic medicines used to treat allergies are antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids, and combinations of these.
Antihistamines: This medication blocks the receptors that produce histamine, which causes swelling, itching, and runny noses. Histamines also work in other allergic reaction, like food allergies, and can cause itching and swelling all over the body, with seasonal allergies, it is mostly contained to nasal passages, sinuses and eyes. The extra secretions make eyes and noses run. By blocking the histamine receptors, these symptoms are prevented.
Many antihistamines are sold over the counter, like Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec and Tavist. Prescription antihistamines include Zyzal, Alleegra, and Clarinex. Some eye drops have antihistamine components in them to go directly to the eyes, both OTC an dprescription.
Side effects of antihistamines do include drowsiness and feeling foggy and unfocused. They effect different people differently, so it helps to keep trying until you find one that works with minimal side effects.
Decongestents: Decongestants relieve congestion and are often prescribed along with antihistamines for allergies. As they shrink swollen membranes and passages, they help with the stopped up feeling, and can prevent fluid from accumulating and causing other ailments, like ear infections. Decongestants can be taken in nasal spray, eye drop, liquid, or pill form.
Nasal spray and eye drop decongestants can be used for only a short time as they have stronger side effects and long term use can even make symptoms worse. Pill form and liquid decongestants can be taken safely for longer periods of time. Some OTC forms are Zyrtec – D and Sudafed, Afrin nose drops and Visine eye drops. Prescription forms include Claritin-D and Allegra-D.
Side effects include insomnia and irritability, and are usually not recommended for those with high blood pressure as they may cause it to increase.
Combination: Some allergy have products have both components of antihistamines and decongestants in them, like Benadryl Allergy and Sinus.
Corticosteroids (or Steroids): These are effective prevention and treatment as they reduce inflammation and prevent and treat year round stuffiness, sneezing and itchy, runny eyes. They can be taken in pill form, as nasal sprays, or eye drops. However, they have a lot of side effects so need to be taken carefully. Some examples of these are Nasonex (nasal drops) and Prednisone which is taken orally. All steroids need to be prescribed by a doctor.
Allergy shots are another option, but that is a whole other article!