Allergy medications

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Your feel-better guide

Sometimes, avoiding your allergy triggers isn’t enough. Medications can be used to relieve symptoms.

Non-prescription medicines

There are many over-the-counter medications for allergies, including Fluticasone (Flonase) and Triamcinolone (Nasacort), which are effective, non-drowsy steroid nasal sprays. It brings relief to as many as 90% of the people who use them, and is good for treating seasonal and year-round allergies.

Choose a medication that matches your symptoms. Avoid combination drugs, which may have ingredients you don't need, unless you have multiple allergy symptoms.

Be aware of side effects. For example, antihistamines can make you sleepy, so you shouldn't take these with alcohol, tranquilizers, or sleeping pills and not drive until you know how they affect you.

Decongestants, on the other hand, can cause jitters, nervousness, restlessness, sleeplessness, so avoid caffeine and take only the recommended dose, during the day.

When in doubt, email your doctor or talk with a pharmacist before you take allergy medications.

 Scratchy
throat
Runny
nose
Stuffy
nose
Itchy
eyes

Antihistamines

Fexofenadine
(Allegra)

 
Loratadine 
(Claritin)
 

Cetirizine 
(Zyrtec)

 

Decongestants

Pseudoephedrine
(Sudafed)

   

Phenylephrine
(Sudafed PE)

   

Antihistamine + decongestant 

Fexofenadine-D
Loratadine-D
(Claritin-D)*
Cetirizine-D (Zyrtec-D)*
Dimetapp Cold & Allergy

Nose sprays

Fluticasone (Flonase) √ √
Triamcinolone (Nasacort)
Saline Nose Spray (Ocean)   
Sinus Rinse Kit (NeilMed)  
Cromolyn Nose Spray
(Nasalcrom)
 √ √ 
Eye drops
Artificial Tears Eye Drops   
Ketotifen Eye Drops
(Zaditor)**
   
Naphazoline/Pheniramine
Eye Drops
(Opcon-A)
   

 

Allergy shots

Allergy shots can often provide relief for people who find that allergy medications are not the answer for them. For some people, allergy medications do not work very well. Others notice side effects from allergy medication. Still others simply don’t like taking allergy medication long term. Allergy medications are long term medications because they relieve allergy symptoms, but they don’t cure allergies.

If you are interested in allergy shot treatment, talk to your doctor about a referral for an in-depth allergy evaluation.

Brand names are given for reference, not as an endorsement by Kaiser Permanente.

*Available at the counter; ask pharmacy staff for assistance.

The most frequent side effects of Flonase and Nasacort inlclude bloody nose and headache.

**Also sold as Zyrtec and Claritin eye drops.

Reviewed by: William Crawford, MD, December 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente