When you’re sniffling, sneezing and constantly reaching for a tissue for your runny nose, it can become more than a little annoying. Add in some watery eyes, throat tickles and maybe even a cough, and you might be willing to try almost anything to make the misery stop. If you’re one of the millions of allergy sufferers in the U.S. — and billions around the world — you know all too well what kind of irritating discomforts are waiting for you with each new allergy season or unexpected exposure.
Whether your symptoms are moderate or severe, they can impact your daily activities, prompting you to seek relief in the form of an allergy medication. You could visit your doctor to request a prescription medication, but with so many former prescription allergy drugs now available in your grocery store medicine aisle, it seems a bit like a waste of time, effort and probably even money. Most people can find an over-the-counter allergy medication to tackle all their symptoms, but that doesn’t mean all the meds work the same. Here’s what you need to know about the best allergy medications.
Antihistamine Allergy Medications
Over-the-counter allergy medications come in many forms, including pills, inhalers, creams, liquids, nasal sprays and eye drops. The most common types of allergies cause a histamine reaction when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks what should be a harmless substance, such as pollen, to remove it from the body. Antihistamine allergy medications combat this reaction by blocking the production of histamine.
The most common antihistamines are oral tablets and liquids formulated to target sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, watery eyes, hives and other common allergy symptoms. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) have been around for quite some time and are known to cause drowsiness, making them a poor choice when you’re at work or driving. Newer antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), levocetirizine (Xyzal) and desloratadine (Clarinex) are much less likely to cause drowsiness.
Antihistamine nasal sprays are only available by prescription, but eye drops are available over the counter if your most bothersome allergy symptoms are itchy, red, watery eyes. Top options include naphazoline and pheniramine combinations (Visine Allergy, Clear Eyes, Opcon-A), ketotifen (Alaway and Zaditor) and olopatadine (Pataday and Patanol).