Using Allergy Medications Wisely


Barbara Floria

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Keep these guidelines in mind when looking for allergy relief:

Be aware of side effects

Some over-the-counter allergy medications will make you drowsy. They may contain antihistamines, decongestants, or both. Be careful not to take them when you will be driving or working with machinery. Newer antihistamines -- loratadine (Alavert, Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (Allegra) -- are available over-the-counter and are less likely to cause you to be sleepy.

Read carefully

Make sure you follow the package instructions. Don't take more or more often than directed. Make sure you know whether or not you can take the medication with your other medications or with medical conditions you may have.

Nasal sprays

Nonprescription decongestant nasal sprays or drops may make you feel better for a while, but they have a "rebound effect" that can actually  increase congestion or stuffiness in your nose. make sure you:

  • Watch for side effects such as nosebleeds, rapid heartbeat, and agitation.

  • Use them for only a few days at a time, usually three days of continued use. It's safe to use them again after giving your nose a few days' rest.

  • Saline sprays or drops can help moisten nasal secretions and help clear the nose and sinuses. They are safe to use continuously.

  • Nasal corticosteroid sprays are very effective for treating nasal allergies. They may take a few days until you notice an improvement in symptoms.

  • Nasal antihistamine sprays are also effective and available by prescription. They may also cause sleepiness.

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Medical Reviewers: Beth Holloway, RN, M.Ed.; MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician Last Review Date: May 9, 2014

© 2000-2015 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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Medical References

  1. Vitality on Demand.
  2. American Academy of Family Physicians. Antihistamines: Understanding Your OTC Options (
  3. American Academy of Family Physicians. Antihistamines: Getting the Most for Your oTC Medicine (
  4. American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. Antihistamines, Decongestants, and Cold Remedies (
  5. American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. Fact Sheet: 20 Questions About Your Sinuses (

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