Types of Allergy Medications

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Seasonal allergies affect millions of people who use prescription and non-prescription medication to find relief from itchy eyes, nasal congestion and sneezing.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines, such as non-drowsy Benadryl, stop the release of histamine in the body. When you have an allergic reaction, your immune system releases histamines to try to rid your body of the allergen.

When the production of histamine is halted, your allergy symptoms are lessened. Antihistamines can be taken orally, as eye drops, or as nasal sprays. Many times, patients are prescribed two or three of these medications if they have severe symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, oral antihistamines can lessen symptoms like swelling, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and hives. Antihistamine nasal sprays help to relieve sinus congestion, postnasal drip and other symptoms. They usually require a prescription and can have side effects like dry mouth or headaches.

Decongestants

Although decongestants can provide fast, temporary relief to sinus pain and congestion, they should not be taken by everyone. Pregnant women, older adults, and those with high blood pressure are often advised not to use over-the-counter decongestants, especially at high doses. If you are not sure if these medications are safe for you, check with your doctor. They can cause blood pressure to rise, dizziness, insomnia, headaches, anxiety or irregular heartbeat.

People who have nasal congestion and sinus problems may reach for the nasal decongestant spray, such as Neo-Synephrine or Afrin. However, rebound congestion can result if the spray is used for more than a week. This means that you can develop worse congestion when you stop using the nasal spray. Decongestant eye drops are sometimes prescribed for patients with itchy eyes that result from allergies.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are medications that stop the release of chemicals that cause symptoms during an allergic reaction. They are used to relieve the symptoms of hay fever, and they can also prevent allergic reactions when used regularly before your allergy season. Some people use them year-round for a variety of allergies. Eye drops and skin creams that contain corticosteroids stop itching and symptoms that result from a variety of allergic reactions. For severe allergic reactions, oral corticosteroids are prescribed. Oral corticosteroids require a prescription and can cause short- or long-term side effects.

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