With all the flowers and trees blooming this spring and summer, seasonal allergies are at their peak as well. Whether you experience allergic symptoms every year around this time, or if this is your first year, you already know they can be quite a nuisance!
Trees, weeds, grasses, or blooming flowers can release pollen into the air, which in turn can cause hay fever. Hay fever or allergic rhinitis are fancy terms for your typical seasonal allergy symptoms.
Most of the time you can save yourself a visit to your doctor’s office (and the co-pay that goes with it) by treating your symptoms with one of the many different medications that are now available over-the-counter without a prescription.
If you are unsure of which medication to use, asking your pharmacist can help narrow your choices down. However, it’s important to let your pharmacist know some important information so that they can suggest the best over-the-counter treatment for you:
- Any allergies
- A list of medications you are currently taking, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, minerals, herbs, and samples from your doctor
- What medications you have already tried (if any)
What types of medications are used for seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergy medications come in many forms, including:
- Oral tablets, capsules, liquids
- Nasal sprays
- Throat sprays
- Eye drops
What classes of medications are available OTC to treat seasonal allergies?
Most over-the-counter medications treat different allergy symptoms, like runny nose, itchiness, or cough. Some categories include:
- Cough suppressants
- Nasal steroids
Still a little lost? Here’s a quick overview of the basic OTC allergy meds.
Antihistamines are a great go-to medication to alleviate many of the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies—particularly sneezing, runny nose, nasal drainage, and itchiness. Antihistamines work by drying up excess bodily secretions and blocking histamine, a natural substance released by the body during allergic reactions.
Some OTC antihistamines include:
Decongestants are used to relieve nasal congestion, as well as the pressure and pain you may feel in your head or sinuses from seasonal allergies. Decongestants work by narrowing the blood vessels that are causing nasal congestion which results in the usual flow of air allowing a person to breathe normally.
Some OTC decongestants include:
Cough suppressants are best used to alleviate a dry, non-productive, nagging cough that tends to linger. They work to control your cough by blocking the cough reflex. Delsym (dextromethorphan) is a common example.
Expectorants are used for chest congestion associated with a productive cough containing mucus. They work by thinning and loosening the mucus that causes chest congestion. Mucinex (guaifenesin) is a common example.
Nasal steroids can be used to treat not only the nasal congestion associated with seasonal allergies, but one in particular, Flonase Allergy Relief, is also approved to ease runny and itchy nose, sneezing, and watery and itchy eyes. Nasal steroids work by decreasing inflammation to help relieve nasal congestion.
The nasal steroids currently available OTC are: