Prescription and OTC Options for Treating Allergy Symptoms

by on March 4, 2012

prescription-otc-options-for-treating-allergyEach year, millions of people suffer from allergies. While some allergies can be controlled by changing one’s diet and making a few other changes, others are acute and sufferers are left with no choice but to seek relief in the form of over the counter or prescription medications.

Options for those needing medication for controlling allergy symptoms include decongestants, corticosteroids, antihistamines, bronchodilators, leukotriene modifiers and many others.


Decongestant medications are available as pills or tablets, nasal sprays, eye drops and in liquid form. Some decongestants should only be used for a few days at a time because they can cause symptoms to worsen if used on a continual basis. Decongestant pills and those in liquid form may be used for longer periods without experiencing side effects. While there are many decongestants which are available as over the counter medication, many are only available on prescription from a doctor.

An example of a decongestant which is only available on prescription is Claritin-D, which is a combination of a decongestant with another form of allergy medication. Over the counter decongestants include Allegra-D (combination antihistamine and decongestant) and Sudafed.

Because of the fact that decongestants have the ability to raise blood pressure, they are not recommended for people who have symptoms or a history of high blood pressure, whether they are using blood pressure medication or not. Other side effects which have been reported after the use of decongestants include insomnia and heart palpitations. Those suffering from any form of heart condition, diabetes, thyroid condition or prostate problem should refrain from using any form of decongestant medication. Those using asthma medications should exercise caution when taking decongestants, as they may counteract the asthma medication or cause other adverse side effects. Glaucoma sufferers should also avoid the use of decongestants as much as possible.


Steroids are a highly effective form of allergy medication, because they are able to successfully reduce the swelling and inflammation in the body that is associated with allergies. They unfortunately have to be taken on a continuous basis for any benefits to be noticed, even if you are not currently experiencing any allergy symptoms. When taking corticosteroid medication, it is important to remember that they take at least 2 weeks to start working in the body. These steroid medications are available as creams which are normally used for skin allergies, in pill form, as inhalers for those who suffer from asthma and other bronchial conditions, eye drops and nasal sprays which are suitable for seasonal allergy sufferers.

There are many different corticosteroids on the market today. Examples of inhaled steroids for those suffering from asthma or other similar conditions include Alvesco, Symbicort, Flovent and Azmacort.

All inhaled steroids are only available with a doctor’s prescription because of the fact that their usage needs to be carefully monitored by a qualified doctor. Nasal sprays, oral steroids and eye drops are normally available as over the counter options for allergy treatment. Examples of these include Prednisone, Flonase, Fluticasone (Advair), Dexamethasone (Decadron) and Alrex. Side effects experienced from using corticosteroids include high blood pressure, weight gain, muscle weakness, tiredness, fluid retention, stunting of growth (in children), diabetes and eye cataracts, coughing and yeast infections in the mouth.


These are among the most common treatments, especially for those who suffer from seasonal allergies to grass and pollen. Many of these, such as Dimetane, Zyrtec, Claritin and Allegra, are available as over the counter medications. Examples of prescription antihistamines include Astelin, Livostin and Clarinex.

Reported side effects when using antihistamine medications include irritability, restlessness, inability to urinate when needed, confusion, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, drowsiness, dry mouth and dizziness. Individuals suffering from high blood pressure, liver disease, glaucoma, an enlarged prostate or bladder condition should always consult with a doctor before using any antihistamine medications.


These allergy medications are designed especially for those suffering from asthma or other bronchial conditions. They help to expel mucous from the lungs and airways by opening them and allowing the impurities to be coughed out easier. Bronchodilators are available as short-acting and long-acting options. Short-acting bronchodilators are used to treat acute asthma attacks and long-acting bronchodilators are effective for up to 12 hours after the initial treatment. This enables the sufferer to sleep through the night without suffering another attack.

Examples of bronchodilators are Maxair, Ventolin and Proventil.

Bronchodilators are only issued on prescription because of the fact that they can have potentially dangerous side effects if misused or overused. Headaches are one of the most common side effects which have been reported. Increased heartbeat (tachycardia), nervousness and trembling have also been reported. Should patients experience any of these side effects when using bronchodilators, it is imperative that they seek medical attention immediately.

Leukotriene Modifiers

Also known as leukotriene antagonists, these medicines are commonly used for the prevention of asthma and the treatment of allergic rhinitis and other allergies. Leukotrienes are inflammation causing chemicals that the body releases when it comes into contact with any form of allergens. These chemicals are responsible for tightening of the airways when an allergy or asthma attack occurs. Leukotriene modifiers are responsible for helping to prevent the bronchial tubes from constricting. This medication is available in tablet, granular and chewable form. Asthma sufferers can make use of Singulair, Accolate and Zyflo to manage their condition. It is recommended that those suffering from seasonal allergies or rhinitis make use of Singulair.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should always consult with their doctor before using any leukotriene modifiers. Possible side effects associated with these medications include stomach cramps, headaches, vomiting, nausea, nasal congestion, irregular heartbeat, fever, heartburn, skin rashes, coughing, anxiety, weakness, hives and possible breathing problems. If any of these symptoms are experienced, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. If any other medication is being used, it is also important to consult with a doctor before using any other medications in conjunction with leukotriene modifiers.

Other Products Which can Treat Allergy Symptoms

For those who suffer from allergy symptoms for more than 3 months each year, there is also the option of allergy shots (also known as immunotherapy). This works by giving the allergy sufferer increased amounts of the offending allergen with each shot which in turn helps their body to build immunity against the offending allergens.

Other over the counter products used for allergy symptoms include saline nasal sprays which help loosen mucous and relieve mild cases of congestion, and artificial tears (eye drops) which helps treat watery and itchy eyes. Examples of these products include Visine-A (previously marketed as OcuHist), Nasalcrom and Ayr Saline Solution.

Because there are many more options available than ever before for those suffering from seasonal or chronic allergy symptoms, allergy sufferers no longer need to put up with the discomfort of runny noses, congestion, watery eyes and constant sneezing or coughing. They have help at hand in the form of various medications and treatments which have been especially formulated for their particular conditions. It is always important to remember that a doctor should always be consulted before taking any medication which has previously not been used.

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  1. Richard

    Hi---Benn on 160 Alvesco for almost 1.5 years. Experiencing annoying heart palpitations. Am 170 lbs., w/ no cardio issues,according to my doctor. Pls. advise. Am also wondering if my Vit D sup is causing palps. Maybe I need to take D with Magnesium, to offset palps?? TX.

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