Allergy sufferers often turn to medications for relief from their symptoms. Generally speaking, there are two major classes of over-the-counter medications, those that can be purchased without a doctor's prescription. These are antihistamines and decongestants.
Antihistamines work by blocking the affect of histamine, a substance that the body makes during an allergic reaction. They relieve symptoms such as sneezing, itching and runny nose. Doctors generally recommend that allergic individuals take these routinely during allergy season (or all year-round depending upon what you're actually allergic to).
Antihistamines such as Benadryl and Dimetapp do cause side effects. For example, one in five people experience drowsiness, which may decrease with use.
Other side effects include:
- dry mouth,
- difficulty urinating
- and blurred vision.
Discuss your options with your physician before choosing any medication especially those that will be used on children.
Decongestants come in various forms such as liquid, tablet, nasal spray and topical eye treatments. They work by narrowing blood vessels and reducing blood flow to affected areas, which clears congestion and improves respiration.
Doctors warn against using non-prescription nasal sprays and/or drops for more than three days. Prolonged use could cause swelling in the sinus cavity, thus increasing congestion long-term.
Oral decongestants such as Sudafed relieve a stuffy nose but do not help with itching and sneezing.
Side effects include:
- and an increased heart beat.
These drugs can interact with other medications, including anti-depressants. So be clear about what you're taking and discuss possibilities with your pharmacist and/or doctor. Decongestants and antihistamines are also not recommended for folks with thyroid disease, certain heart conditions and diabetes.
Of course if either antihistamines or decongestants don't work to alleviate allergy symptoms, there are a variety of prescription medications that may do the trick. Some of the most common prescription meds are Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra. Many of these won't make you drowsy. They will also combine the most effective qualities of both antihistamines and decongestants to dry up nasal congestion and eliminate the histamine response.
Allergy shots or sub-lingual drops are also available for those with severe allergies. By visiting an allergist, a doctor who specializes in allergies, you will discover what your allergies are. This occurs in a skin test, usually conducted on the patient's back. As a result of a test, specialized shots (or drops) are prepared which contain items you are allergic to. Usually given over several years and increased over time, the shots help build up your immunity to the allergens, alleviating your symptoms.