About one in five people in the United States suffers from either allergies or asthma, according to WebMD. The annual cost of allergies to the health care system and businesses in the U.S. is estimated at $7.9 billion. A number of over-the-counter medications are used to treat these allergies, and these can provide good relief for individuals with mild to moderate symptoms.
Over-the-Counter Allergy Medications
A number of over-the-counter allergy medications are available for those troubled with seasonal or ongoing allergic conditions. One category of allergy drugs is antihistamines, which blocks histamine, a chemical released by the immune system that contributes to symptoms. Another category of drugs that are used to treat allergy symptoms is decongestants. These medications help to dry up the lining of the nose and sinuses to relieve congestion. Corticosteroid medications can be used to relieve severe symptoms by reducing the inflammation caused by allergy reactions.
Common Over-the-Counter Antihistamines
· Zyrtec, generic name cetirizine, can produce drowsiness as a side effect in some people.
· ChlorTrimetron, generic name chlorpheniramine maleate, can also cause drowsiness.
· Benadryl, generic name diphenhydramine, is another antihistamine medication that can cause drowsiness and should be taken with caution.
· Allegra, generic name fexofenadine, is a newer antihistamine medication that does not cause drowsiness in most people and can be used when driving or operating machinery.
· Claritin, generic name loratadine, is also a good choice is you wish to avoid drowsiness.
Common Over-the-Counter Decongestants
Allergy sufferers can choose from a wide variety of decongestants to help dry up watery eyes and noses. These medications can cause nervousness and sleeplessness. In addition, they can also cause increased heart rate or increased blood pressure. If you take medications for your blood pressure or your heart, talk to your physician before using an over-the-counter decongestant medication. Also, if you have urinary problems, decongestants can make your problems worse.
· Afrin, generic name oxymetazoline
· Sudafed, generic name pseudoephedrine
· Neo-Synephrine, generic name phenylephrine
Common Corticosteroid Allergy Medications
· Flonase is a corticosteroid medication that was once only available with a prescription from your physician, but is now available over-the-counter.
· Nasacort, generic name triamcinolone acetonide, is a steroid nasal spray that is now available without a prescription. It can provide 24-hour relief of allergy symptoms. Side effects include nausea, headache, minor nasal bleeding and sore throat. If you take other medications, consult your physician before using Nasacort.
· Flonase, generic name fluticasone proprionate – is a steroid nasal spray that effectively controls allergy symptoms. It was previously only available with a prescription, but it has now been approved for over-the-counter sale. Flonase side effects include headache, minor nosebleeds, and irritation of the nose or throat.
When used as directed, these medications can provide effective relief for allergic rhinitis and other troublesome allergy symptoms. Some nasal sprays can be addictive and should only be used according to package directions. Many of the newer medications have higher price points and can be a significant expense. If you continue to have problems with uncomfortable allergy symptoms, talk to an allergy specialist who can advise you on the best products for your needs.